Jasmine’s fears

With England’s lockdown hailed to end on July 4th (Wales will be somewhat later), perhaps its time look at what we’ve learnt and consider what the future holds. It is over three months since the UK entered lockdown, and six months since word of a new disease emerged from China. Personally, it hasn’t been an unpleasant period. The fine weather meant we have had lots of walks, losing most of my appointments meant more time for writing, and being retired meant that we had no financial worries (for the moment). In fact, thanks to not using the car for three months or going out, we’ve saved a fair sum. Neither have we suffered from the virus or had anyone close to us suffer serious ill-health.

That doesn’t mean that we are complacent. While we look forward to a loosening of the rules and the chance to meet up with family, the future appears foggy with heavy storm clouds looming. The mistakes of the last six months are yet to have their consequences. I have followed the weekly reports on the coronavirus in New Scientist magazine. These have covered the response across the world and the “science” of the virus and its associated disease. There are two points. One, a pandemic was expected and second, most governments had signed up to a pandemic protocol for concerted action. The problem was that many governments, especially the UK, took the risk that no pandemic would affect them and no government followed the protocol to the letter.

In other words, the government of the UK and many other countries, were unprepared, had no plan, were slow to react and were unable to understand the science. Scientists have learned a lot about the coronavirus and COVID19 but there is still an awful lot that is uncertain. How infective are child carriers? Do you acquire immunity if you are infected and for how long? How many people have been infected? What are the risks of infection from taking various actions? If the agreed protocol had been followed and countries had learned from each other, many of those questions could have been answered sooner, reducing the costs to everyone.

We now have the situation, in England at least, where most people think the crisis is over. Social distancing is in confusion – is it 2m, 1m, >1m, inside, outside, on the beach? How many families to a “bubble”? Can the contents of the bubble change every day? There will be second waves as there have been in China, South Korea, Germany et al. Perhaps they will be localised. Who knows? Certainly not the Johnson government.

The economic repercussions will be as bad as the disease itself and perhaps cause as many deaths except they won’t be reported as such. There will deaths from the mental health problems caused by isolation and redundancy, deaths from diseases left untreated, deaths from increased poverty and maybe, deaths from unrest and increased crime caused by unemployment. Yes, there are storm clouds ahead.

Last week it slipped out that the Johnson government is not proceeding with the consultation on gender self-identification, i.e. the 2004 Gender Recognition Act is not being amended. First, I’d like to point out that the Act is still in operation so transmen and transwomen who have received a Gender Recognition Certificate are legally men and women respectively. No argument. The problem is the rights of the many thousands of other transgender people who have not or do not want to meet the requirements of the act. Neither the 2004 Act nor the 2010 Equality Act protects transgender or non-binary people from discrimination and prejudice if they have not acquired a GRC.

It should be simple. It should be a basic right to be the person you identify as. Gender should be eliminated from the laws of the land and everyone treated equally. This doesn’t mean that there should not be help for pregnant women for example. As far as the law and provision of care and benefits is concerned their characteristic is being pregnant not that they are female.

There that’s said.

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The theme for writing group this week was inspired by the news of the death of Vera Lynn. Vera was the topic. We had a variety of tales and memoirs which as usual were very varied. Here’s mine inspired by Vera’s visit to Burma in 1944.

Forces’ Sweetheart

My mind was foggy when Nobby burst into the tent and announced there was going to be some entertainment. I can’t say I felt up to joining the poker circle. Snap was about all I could manage after our last patrol up the hill. I’d picked up a nick from an enemy bullet and had a touch of the fever that we all got from time to time.
“Not another card game. I already owe you all my pay for the next year,” I said turning over on my camp bed. I just wanted to stretch out close my eyes and dream of a cool beer and a bath.
“Come on Sid, you’ll want to see this. It ain’t cards, it’s a performance.”
It seemed Nobby wasn’t going to let me be. “What is it? Those three gunners dressed up as the Andrews Sisters. They look good enough to kiss, but I hope they’ve learnt to sing now.”
“Na, Sid. It ain’t them. It’s the lass from home. The forces’ sweetheart. You know ‘er.”
“She sings those sentimental dirges. Leave me alone.”
“Aw, come on, Sid. Everyone’s going. It’ll cheer you up.”
“What, one girl singing to five hundred knackered tommies.” But, Nobby had pricked my interest. No one else came out from home to entertain our forgotten army, so it said something for this girl to make the effort.

Nobby managed to get us in a few rows from the front, so at least we had some chance of hearing. She’d brought her own pianist with a small battered honky tonk that had gone out of tune and they gave her a microphone connected up to the camp loudspeakers powered by a couple of truck batteries.
After the customary shouts of “ger off” when the CO made his welcoming speech, she stepped onto the makeshift stage. There was a roar which the enemy must have heard up in the hills. She was a vision of an angel, to my tired eyes anyway. Her blonde hair may have been flattened by the sweat and the humidity, but her face and long legs were still a few shades closer to white than our burnt hides. She was wearing khaki in an imitation of our uniform but who cared what she wore. When she opened her mouth and let her voice take flight, well it silenced the lot of us.
Yes, the songs were poignant and nostalgic, and we probably all suffered homesickness, but don’t we always. She soon had the lot of us joining in the choruses and we sounded like we were all together for once. I thought of home. Were Mum and Dad still hanging on through the blitz? How was Dick doing in Africa? Was Betty still waiting for me or had she fallen for one of these GIs that everyone said were over there now.

I slept well that night. Perhaps a good sing is good for you. There were still the dreams of course, well, nightmares, but I dreamt of this pale angel with the soaring voice who had come to encourage us towards the end. It was the end for some of course. Nobby bought it on our next patrol. I’ll miss him but I’ll get to keep my pay.

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Jasmine hopes

Education, Education, Education. That was a certain politician’s slogan over twenty years ago. He was right. Education can be the solution to many of the world’s ills. Now, and not for the first time, Black Lives Matter are calling for black history to be a significant part of the curriculum. They think it will eliminate racism. While their request is right I think they are being over hopeful of the effectiveness of schools. Whenever there is a social issue, the call is for it to be made part of the curriculum – black history, female history, LGBT history, religious tolerance, climate change and many more. All to be made part of the learning of every child. Perhaps you can see the problem. Schools have a limited time with students. Yes, part of a school’s job is to open a child’s eyes to the people and the world around them, but the school also has to give the pupil the skills and knowledge to go out and make a life in the world. There is only a limited time to study the speeches of Martin Luther King or the life and work of Mary Seacole. In fact in the English system only a minority of students study history at all after the age of 14. History prior to that is a whistle-stop tour (or perhaps it is more up to date to say a cruise) of the ancient world, the Roman Empire, the Anglo-Saxons (i.e King Alfred), the Vikings, the Normans, the Tudors and Stuarts, Victorians and perhaps the Industrial Revolution. Older pupils may study the world wars, the cold war, China. It is all very superficial. I don’t hold out much hope that a school study of black history will get very deep.

On the other hand, the emphasis of education should move from being white European and, in the UK, focussed on the “victories of England”. I was educated in Wales and we did have Welsh history as a minor part of our history O level (showing my age there). However, the bulk of the history I was taught was English history – kings, queens and English prime ministers. Even the colonisation of Wales by the (Norman) English was told from the English point of view. Today, tourists marvel at the dozens of impressive C12th and C13th castles that ring Wales. Imagine what their effect must have been on the Welsh inhabitants at the time – at least as intimidating as the appearance of regiments of redcoats with their muskets and cannon in India, Africa and elsewhere. Where should the reassessment of history begin?

Attitudes have to change everywhere. It has been said often enough, that no one should be selected for good or ill by their colour, gender, or sexuality. Nevertheless, while schools have an important role, parents, governments, employers, and communities must examine their attitudes and behaviour and ensure that all forms of prejudice and discrimination are eliminated.

Oh, and another thing. Saying sorry is pointless. I note that the Bank of England, the Church of England, et al are saying sorry for taking part in the slave trade. Just saying sorry is a cop out. As a teacher, I would not accept the mouthing of the word without a commitment to a change of attitude and behaviour and a eagerness to put things right. Didn’t always work of course, but saying sorry with nothing more is meaningless.

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Last week I was invited on Facebook to sigh a petition demanding that the UK government restore rights to transgender people. Now, I know that there are members of the government who are not friends of trans people and it was confirmed this week that Johnson has binned the consultation on easing the path to obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate, but I was not aware that any of the laws protecting trans people had been rolled back. I asked what rights the petition was asking to be restored. I got a single sentence reply referring rather vaguely to the dignity of trans people. The petition was a vague, misguided attempt to gather support. I was also deluged with a heap of other stuff from trans activist groups.

I am trans. To be precise I am gender-fluid. I believe that if someone says they are a woman they are a woman, if they say they are a man they are a man. I don’t believe that giving transpeople the right to be who they say they are has done or would do any harm to the rest of society. Claims that letting transwomen into women’s “safe places” would result in assaults on women are bogus and inflammatory. However, both sides in the “trans wars” are as bad as each other in using intimidation, lies and exaggeration to promote their cause. In this time when discrimination is top of the news, it seems strange that on the one hand transpeople are being villified while responding with vile and incendiary attacks on those that do not support them.

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Writing proceeds. I have completed the last (I hope) revision of The Pendant and the Globe and I am midway through the second edit of Impersonator: the 5th Jasmine Frame novel. I think I am doing a reasonable job of tightening up the writing and making most of the changes suggested by my readers. Soon we will move to the publishing stage.

This week’s writing group task was suggested by what I did last week – a dialogue only piece, no description, no speech signifiers. I didn’t write a new piece but took a short section of Pendant and Globe and stripped out all the non-dialogue. Could the characters be distinguished by their voice?

There are two ways of writing dialogue. You can tell readers who is speaking by using “he said” or by giving hints – “she took a breath”. Or you can show by giving each speaker personality – dialect, idiosyncratic phrasing (think Joda) or slip in words which signify who is speaking. I think it is impossible to convey tone or timbre without description but many writers have the skill to give each of the characters an unique voice although too much dialect is irritating. It is a skill I aspire to but haven’t yet acquired as you can see from my excerpt from P&G. There are 3 speakers, the third joins partway through. Can you tell where?

The Pendant and the Globe – excerpt, dialogue only

“I have prevented the disasters you set in motion.”
“You accuse me?”
“Yes, I do. Your foolish and ill-considered meddling with the Pendant nearly brought destruction to the coast of Keyah, the plains of southern Nyumbani and the forests of northern Adre.”
“I didn’t mean . . .”
“I don’t have time to argue. There is a greater danger than that which your childish behaviour caused.”
“What do you mean?”
“Jabutsk.”
“I do not know the place.”
“A city of Homin in eastern Yazhou.”
“I’ve never heard of it.”
“I don’t believe you. If your Tomte friends have been training you to steal the Pendant and use its powers, you must know what they have been planning with the Homin of Jabutsk.”
“No. Torn talked of a diversion while I became familiar with the Realms, but he did not give me details. What are these Homin of Jabutsk doing?”
“Attacking their neighbours with war machines such as have never been imagined. Metal monsters that crawl over the ground spurting fiery death, and machines of the air that rain destruction on the innocent below.”
“No, Torn would not envisage such a thing. You were the only enemies that were mentioned to me. The Tomte would not harm Homin.”
“Do not be so sure of your mentor. I sense great disturbance in that area of Yazhou. Activity that was hidden from me previously.”
“I have seen the machines of Jabutsk slaughtering Veterhom, destroying the homes of Homin and killing those that fled. Homin are inquisitive and inventive but the materials used in the Jabutsk machines must have come from the Tomte mines and manufactories.”
“No, I don’t believe you. Torn warned me about the lying and cheating of Eminent. The Tomte would not help Homin to harm Homin.”
“You foolish girl. Why would we lie to you? You are nothing without the Pendant or the Ostung sword.”
“My sister does not lie. You have no power and cannot harm us. But the Tomte who have filled you with hate since your birth have brought war to the Homin. I will show you.”

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Jasmine all of a quiver

It’s been quite a week hasn’t it- politically that is.  Have MPs at last had the chance to vote with their brains and consciences? I think a lot have. Seeing off May’s plan and the No Deal option are a start, asking the EU for an extension is the next. Now all they have to do is force a referendum and we have the opportunity to put across to the people what the EU does for us and why we should remain a part of it. Some will be unhappy and may even try to cause disruption but that was going to happen whatever the outcome was.  I have fingers, and other bits of me, crossed but it is dreadfully close to the deadline and as I have said before it is criminal that things should have been allowed to reach this impasse.

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I was at a conference earlier this week at a certain university. It was reporting on and promoting a short course on “Transgender” for staff and students. The writing team seem to have done a good bit of work but we weren’t allowed a look at the course itself. None of the team were apparently trans themselves (who can tell?) but at least one had close contact with someone who had transitioned. There were talks from a couple of trans and non-binary people and from a headmaster coping with the problems of having pupils transitioning (the pupils aren’t the problem; parents of other pupils are.)  I did worry that a somewhat stereotypical picture of gender was presented. One of the speakers who had done the course, reported a session where they were asked to place themselves on a gender spectrum (1 to 12) on the basis of certain traits e.g. the length of their hair, whether they liked classic cars or football. Now this may have been an ironic take on stereotyping, but it caused me to raise my eyebrows.

The audience was largely cis-people for organisations who may adopt the course for their students or staff. There were a few trans people – at least ones I suspected of being trans. There were very few questions asked and no opinions or comments from the floor. The team were a bit self-congratulatory which seemed somewhat premature and based only on the evaluation of the pilot of the course with a small number of students and staff.  I heartily endorse the need for something like this course to help spread understanding but not being able to examine the content made it a little pointless.

WP_20181120_11_51_39_ProI am increasingly upset that the focus is almost always on trans people who wish to transition fully to the binary gender they identify with. That’s fine but we also need much more understanding about what it means to be non-binary and how it is viewed by society. As a case in point – I tried out the “facilities” at the venue. There were male toilets and female toilets and a door advertising that it was for those that required a non-gendered space. It turned out to be the room for those with disabilities. I took exception to that because a) I do not need a special loo, and b) I don’t want to be in a position of preventing someone who does need them from gaining access.  So even the most trans aware organisations need to think a bit more clearly.

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This week’s bit of writing needs some explanation. At last week’s writers’ group meeting we were introduced to something called a Writers’ Toolbox. I’m not sure whether it is simply a game or whether it is actually intended as a stimulus to writers. We didn’t know the rules exactly (rules? For writing?) so I took three sticks which I thought provided a first sentence, a last sentence and one for in between which sort of  provided a fulcrum for the plot. The story below is the result with the relevant sentences coloured. I didn’t have a lot of time so my effort rather shoehorns the sentences together. I have since learned that the last sentence, isn’t.

It’s the Turtles

My brother did this weird thing with turtles. Some people like eating them. Me? I just enjoyed watching them, and so did Herb, my little bro, at the beginning.
We have a house, well, it’s more of a shack, right on the beach. So we’re right there when the turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. They do it at night of course to avoid predators but we’re there watching, sometimes until dawn. Their slow, agonising crawl ashore is almost painful to watch. I often had the urge to run on to the sand and give them a lift, but we didn’t. Once they’ve decided they’re far enough from the high-water line they dig their shallow nests in the sand. Their flippers aren’t really designed for scooping sand, but they just get on with it. Then they lay their eggs, dozens to each female. They’re all females of course. The males stay way out at sea.  Weeks later we watch the little turtles scramble up to the surface and scamper, slowly, for the safety of the sea. Many are picked off by seabirds but others make it.
First it was me and Dad who were the watchers. Then Herb joined us. After Dad died it was just the two of us. A couple of years ago we were following the leatherbacks returning to the ocean when we came across one that was struggling. The old girl was barely making any progress.
“Shall we help her,” Herb asked.
“No, we mustn’t interfere,“ I replied. “Either she makes it or she doesn’t. That’s life.”
The turtle stopped. We waited and watched but there was no movement, not even a flick of a flipper
“Is she dead?” Herb asked.
I crouched down and examined her. She looked dead. I gave her a prod with a finger. No reaction.
“I think so,” I decided.
“We can’t leave her,” Herb cried, “the gulls were peck at her. She’ll be a mess.”
“That’s how it goes,” I said, shrugging.
“No. I’m going to stuff her.” Herb bent down and picked up the leatherback. I don’t know how he did it. He was a scrawny kid and the turtle was heavy. Nevertheless, he lugged the carcase back to the house. Ma didn’t complain at all when Herb came in with a turtle in his arms. Mind you she was out of it as usual. I tried saying you can’t keep a dead turtle in the freezer, but Herb was determined. He googled “stuffing dead animals” and picked up lots of stuff on taxidermy. He watched hours of YouTube seeing how it was done. Then he started. I was surprised at how good he was. Even that first leatherback looked as though she was in the prime of life when he’d done with her. Herb became obsessed with making the dead look as though they were still alive. He became pretty expert at it and started making some much-needed cash selling his dead animals – mainly marine creatures such as the turtle and fish. He was pretty organised and made sure the freezer didn’t ice up while the animals waited to be dealt with. I preferred watching the turtles in life even if it meant seeing them die.
The number of turtles was falling. I knew that as well as their natural predators there were human ones. Some poachers trapped the adult turtles in the shallow water and others would dig up their eggs. They were the same I decided. Both were driving the creatures to extinction.
Herb was as annoyed about it as I was. We agreed we had to do something. We decided to patrol the beach after the eggs had been laid. One night we came across a bunch of guys digging the eggs up. I might have had words with them, but Herb launched himself at them. One of them pulled a gun. The sound of the shot must have been heard miles out at sea. Herb fell onto the sand. The poachers scarpered. I pulled Herb back to the house, but I knew it was no good. He was as much a goner as that leatherback.
The cops came, took a few notes but didn’t do much. Herb’s body was taken away. Me and Ma were left with our grief and a freezer of dead animals frosting up. I couldn’t deal with them the way Herb defrosted the refrigerator.

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Jasmine at the Museum

An evening in the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff made a pleasant change to watching the continuing chaos on the news. The Museum event was part of the Cardiff Science Festival and I was helping the RSC (that’s the Royal Society of Chemistry) interesting children and their parents in chemistry.  We had a variety of activities for them to join in, mostly set at about Year 7 level (or younger) although one required the children to offer an explanation for how glowsticks work. Tthey weren’t expected to understand the more advanced aspects of chemiluminescence, but getting  them to describe what they saw other than saying “the light switched on” was difficult.  The Museum was packed with well over a thousand participants and they all seemed interested in our activities and the others that were going on.  I do have to say though that I was disappointed in children’s knowledge and understanding of acids, alkalis and indicators, even the older ones.

Another part of the evening was using my half hour off explaining chemistry to view the Leonardo drawings that the Museum has temporarily on loan, celebrating  the 500 year anniversary of his death. The drawings on show were largely anatomical but with some other sketches of plans for statues, and a map. It was marvellous to get up really close to these originals and examine Leonardo’s intricate and accurate diagrams. As well as his skill in drawing the depth of his analysis of his observations was quite breath-taking.

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WP_20190221_12_01_42_ProI have just had a statement from Amazon for the first month’s e-book sales of Molly’s Boudoir.  By Jasmine’s standards they weren’t bad but of course they haven’t continued at the same level because I have yet to discover how to spread word about the book (and the other Jasmine Frame titles) as widely as is necessary. I’m still in need of bright ideas or a publisher willing  to take them on and promote them. As I showed last week, the reviews are good. I still don’t believe that they belong in the tiny niche of transgender fiction. Jasmine is trans and so is the victim but the plot is crime.

And so to this week’s story. This one kills to two birds with one stone – not literally.  It fulfils both the criteria for my weekly writers’ group i.e. include the phrase “and that is why. . .” and that of my monthly group’s title “Window of Opportunity.” This time I adopted the style of an allegory. I’m told it works quite well.

Window of Opportunity: An Allegory

A long time ago I met a wise old man. He may not have been very old and may not have been a man, but he spoke wisely. He asked me what I wanted from life and I replied, that I wished to be recognised for something that I had achieved.
“Oh, you want to be famous,” the wise old man said.
“Not a celebrity who’s famous for being famous,” I said. “I want to do something special.”
“Ah,” he said, nodding sagely, “You need the Window of Opportunity.”
“I suppose so,” I said, not fully understanding what he had said.
“That is a long and difficult journey.” I wasn’t sure what he meant, thinking he had been speaking figuratively.
“To where?” I asked.
“The Tower of Ambition,” he replied, “At the top of the tower you will find the Window of Opportunity.”
“Oh,” I said, somewhat surprised by what he was saying. “And where is this tower.”
“It is at the heart of the Forest of Endeavour, sometimes known as the Jungle of Responsibility.”
I had not heard of such a place. It was nowhere close, that was certain.
“And how do I get there?” I asked.
“Across the Sea of Expertise at the edge of the Ocean of Learning,” he replied.  I did at least know where the ocean was.
“You think travelling all that way is worth the effort?” I said rather doubtfully.
“If you avoid the Desert of Despond and the Depression of Depression, you will find what you seek,” he answered. I was intrigued to find out what he meant and eager to achieve my goal, and that is why I embarked on my journey.
I set out in a small boat across the ocean. During much meandering, I acquired knowledge of astronomy and weather, the skills of navigation, of handling and maintaining my craft and an understanding of the variety and characteristics of marine life. At last I entered the Sea of Expertise where I was beset by calms and buffeted by fierce storms. I had to fight against the wind to at last reach shore.
There I left my boat and set off inland. The Forest covered the continent with trees of every description from tall pines to broad oaks. I followed paths, coming across peoples who welcomed me and looked after me in return for my willingness to assist them. I enquired about the location of the Tower of Ambition but, while many knew of its existence, they could only give me the vaguest of directions. I stayed for a while but then the urge to continue my journey grew strong and I moved on.
One day the trees began to thin allowing the hot Sun to shine directly on me. I hadn’t come across people for a while and was running short of supplies. As I stood by the last tree I looked out on a barren rocky plain. In the distance I could see movement and colour. It appeared to me as a place of civilisation, somewhere to restock my rations.  I set off under the open sky. Soon I was hot and sweaty, I walked on, but my destination seemed as distant as ever. My legs became heavy and my clothes irritated my skin. I felt exhausted by the endless expanse of dry rock. It was then that I remembered the wise old man’s warning. I must be in the Desert of Despond. I turned and headed back the way I had come. I almost ran in my desire to get back amongst the trees.
Not long after I returned to the forest, I came across a community. They were friendly and took me in.  In my first few days one of their number took an interest in me. We became friends, companions, lovers. I worked and soon was accepted as an essential contributor to the village’s welfare. I was happy with my partner and my employment and the friends we had but still the urge remained to find the Tower of Ambition. It became something I had to do. My partner agreed to let me continue with my quest. I promised I would return and set off again.
Once more I travelled along tracks beneath the trees.  The path rose and fell but never became difficult.  That is, until I realised that the route I was following had been descending for some distance. My way was becoming steeper.  I had to watch where I put my feet as the surface become rough and uneven. I stumbled and grabbed hold of a branch to prevent my fall. I seemed to be heading deeper and deeper into a gorge.  Cliffs closed over me shutting out the sky. I could barely see my way in the dark. The weight of the overhanging rock pressed on me.
As I attempted to negotiate an almost vertical stretch I paused. I thought about what I was doing and where I was. This must be the Depression of Depression that the wise old man had warned me of. I was not getting anywhere by continuing down into the dark, cold depths. I turned and began to climb. It was difficult and hard work but slowly I returned to the light and warmth and found where I had missed a turning. I resumed my search for the Tower of Ambition.
I came upon it quite by surprise. From dense jungle I stepped into a clearing and there was the stone tower. It had a broad conical base which curved to become a straight spear that pierced the sky. Even though I bent my head back as far as it would go, I could not see the top of the tower. There was an entrance at ground level, a narrow opening that admitted just one person at a time. There was no-one else there, so I stepped inside. The helical staircase began immediately. I started to climb. I did not count the steps, but I am sure I would have soon lost count. The staircase spiralled up and up. I lifted one foot after the other and plodded on. There were no windows but just enough light from some diffuse source to allow me to see where to put my feet.
I lost track of time but mechanically took one step after another. Hours, perhaps days, passed as I climbed. No-one descended. At last I emerged into a room the full width of the tower. There were no other exits and it was empty. There was a polished wooden floor and an arched roof above me.  Piercing the wall on all sides were sixteen large glass windows.
I stood there at the centre of the room for a few moments taking in the realisation that these must be the Windows of Opportunity. They must show me how to achieve my goal.  I turned, taking in the panoramic view from the window but all I could see was sky as blue and cloudless as it could possibly be.  I hurried to the edge of the room to peer out and down.
The tower was so tall and the atmosphere so clear that it seemed that I could see the whole world. Far below was the canopy of the forest that enclosed the base of the tower. I was disappointed. I had come all this way and all I got was a nice view. Where were the opportunities I sought? I looked at the scene more thoroughly.  The forest receded into the distance but nevertheless I could see a line of darker blue on the horizon. It was the sea. There on the coast I had left my boat and never used the knowledge and skills I learned crossing the ocean again.
Although the trees grew close, I fancied I could discern the route I had taken. I recognised the different trees, the landmarks. I moved around the room looking out of each of the sixteen panes of glass. There in the distance was the featureless plain of the Desert of Despond.  On the other side of the tower from the ocean was the deep rift of the Depression of Depression. It appeared that in my wanderings I had circled the tower at least once.
I walked around gazing out in all directions, looking near and far. The wise old man had called this the Window of Opportunity, the chance to see where I could make my mark in life. Where was it?
Then, down below and not too far away I saw a thin cloud of smoke rising. I recognised it as the site where I had settled; where my partner awaited my return. It was where I had been happy and fulfilled.  Realisation came to me. The window did indeed reveal all the world where every opportunity one could wish for existed. Only fools spent their lives following a needless search for the Window of Opportunity at the top of the Tower of Ambition. Most were content labouring in the Forest of Endeavour.
I went to the top of the stairs and hurried down. There seemed fewer steps on the descent and I quickly reached the ground. I ran into the forest. I knew the direction I needed now. I went straight to the settlement and there my partner welcomed me with a hug while the friends I had left celebrated my return. There I lived, content that I had achieved my goal.
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Jasmine, the future

No, I can’t comment, I won’t; politics is beyond satire, and it certainly isn’t funny anymore.

So, something completely different. I read an article in New Scientist magazine this week about discoveries in the Amazon (that’s the South American rainforest not the bloated parasite of a retailer).  For centuries it was thought that the jungle was the last natural wilderness only inhabited by small, scattered primitive tribes, and that conditions were unsuitable for a civilisation to be established amongst the trees.  The fabled lost cities, Eldorado and Z, were simply fables. Now it seems evidence had been found that, in fact, the Amazon was home to tens of millions of people in a network of cities connected by wide well-made roads. The civilisation began to decline after about 1000AD and collapsed and disappeared with the coming of Spanish and Portuguese explorers/invaders. What the evidence shows is a civilisation  unlike any other around the world.  It was not based on metropolitan centres depending on farming of a few staple crops such as grain or rice.  Golden Eldorado is indeed a myth.

Instead, the cities consisted of loose groups of villages or small towns (garden suburbs if you like) connected by a network of roads. They were built in the jungle not obliterating it. Crops such as cassava, but numbering up to a hundred different types, were grown amongst the trees.  The trees themselves were the biggest resource providing food and materials. The people don’t seem to have farmed grazing animals much if at all, but did catch and farm fish in the many rivers that cross the vast region.  They did not use metals or stone but built with mud and wood. For thousands of years the people lived sustainably within their jungle environment. It’s not known why the civilisation fell and was forgotten. Perhaps the population slowly grew till it reached the limits of sustainability; and then the Europeans arrived with their diseases.

The story tells us a number of things.  First, nowhere on Earth has not been altered or affected by humans. It seems even the Amazon rainforest has been modified and changed by human use. Secondly, the rainforest can sustain a sizeable population especially if it is not torn down and burnt to provide land for the short-lived production  of cash crops. Thirdly, people are resourceful. They have found ways of living and prospering in all sorts of environments. For thousands of years those lives sustained their environment rather than destroying it. Can we find a way of re-adapting our poisoned and depleted Earth and share it with the organisms that ensure our own survival?

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WP_20181129_14_20_54_ProI’m still not writing any Jasmine stories. The fifth novel is on my to-do list, perhaps for later this year. The question  is do I want to write any more short stories – or, can I?  I want to promote the Jasmine Frame series, and I would dearly love higher sales but marketing requires time, energy and skills that I am not sure I possess or can commit. So, would another short story about Jasmine during her transgender transition encourage more readers of this blog and the published books. I don’t know. I need some comments and advice.

I am writing though.  A fantasy novel is developing and there are the weekly assignments for one of my writing groups. This week the topic was “Vegetables”. What’s that all about you ask. Well, it produced quite a variety of responses. Mine is below. It is an allegory, of course, and I know it is not horticulturally accurate. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy it.

The Brassicas

“Oi, Savoy! Have you heard the news?”
Savoy looked at the white head of the caller, from his vantage point at the high end of the field. It was Cauliflower growing in the next plot.
“Are you addressing me?” Savoy replied.
“Yeah, you daft cabbage. I said, have you heard the news?”
“To what news are you referring?” Savoy replied rather upset that Cauliflower may have news before him.
“It came from Neeps, down the end of the field.”
Savoy sighed. The Turnips were always passing on gossip from the neighbouring fields. “What did Neeps tell you?” he asked.
“He didn’t tell me exactly. I heard it from Romanesco.”
Savoy wasn’t surprised. Cauli was often conversing with his green, spiky and attractive relative. Quite improper, Savoy thought, they’d be hybridising before long and who knows what would become of that. “What did Roma tell you?” Savoy said.
“It’s Eric Unwin,” Cauli said, “The farmer.”
“Yes, I know who Unwin is. He’s the EU in EU Farms Ltd. What’s he supposed to be doing now?”
“He’s going to introduce legumes into our field.”
“Legumes!” Savoy almost went pale with apoplexy. His leaves curled. “That can’t be. Neeps must have it wrong. This field is for brassicas; always has, always will.” The days when it was all cabbages and white cauliflowers, and Neeps of course, may have passed. Now there were Reds, Sprouts, Broccoli. Even Kohlrabi and Pak Choi had been introduced, but they were all brassicas.
“There’s no need to bust your stem,” Cauli said, “I’m just telling you what Neeps told Roma.”
“I must speak to Neeps, myself.” Savoy was feeling quite out of sorts as if his roots and absorbed some heavy metal salts. He hailed the bottom of the field. “Hey, down there, Neeps. What’s this about EU planting legumes in our field.
“Och aye,” came the reply, “It’s tha truth. I . . .”
“You can’t believe all that those grains in the next field tell you.”
“A donna. Will ye no lissen tae me?”
“Well, what have you got to say.”
“He’s got canes ready to support them stringy legumes, and there’s seed – Haricot Vert, Mung Beans and. . .”
“Mung Beans!” Savoy exclaimed, “We don’t want them foreigners in our great Brassica field.”
“Well, ye ain’t goin ta have much choice are ye,” Neeps replied.
“This is preposterous,” Savoy said. “We must take action and stop this invasion.”
“I heard that legumes can be quite an asset,” Cauli said quietly, “They’ve got these nodules on their roots that fertilise the soil.”
“I’ll have none of that talk from you, Cauli,” Savoy said, “You can’t be a brassica and be in favour of legumes infiltrating our land.”
A sprout piped up “I think it would be a nice change from that stinking slurry, he uses to fertilise our field.”
“Ve prefer artificial fertiliser,” Kohlrabi said, “Clean and efficient.”
“You can keep out of this,” Savoy said. “You may be a brassica and we’re happy for you to stay but you haven’t been here as long as us cabbages.”
“What are you suggesting then, Savoy?” Cauli asked.
“We have to take back control,” Savoy said, thrusting out his leaves, “Strengthen our borders and keep out these leguminous interlopers before they grow up their canes and steal our light. What do you say Neeps?”
“A dinnae gonna do what tha say you stuffed green. We Neeps will stay part of the farm.”
Savoy blustered “You, you Neeps, you’re just root vegetables, barely brassicas at all. How about you, Red? You’ve been keeping quiet.”
The Red cabbage considered his reply, “We must ensure that the will of the brassicas is respected.”
“What sort of baloney is that?” Cauli called.
“Are you going to support our action or not Red?” Savoy asked.
“I shall put our proposals to the field when the opportunity arises,” Red replied keeping low to the ground.
Cauli had something to ask. “How are you going to withdraw the field from the farm, Savoy?”
Savoy puffed out his leaves. “We shall refuse to take new crops and make new deals for drainage, pesticides and fertiliser.”
“You won’t get a better deal than what the farm provides now,” Cauli replied.
“What do you know?” Savoy retorted.
“As much as you, you snooty cabbage. We’ll be the ones that are harmed by this.”
“The farm needs us more than we need them,” Savoy said.
“I’m not so sure about that. A bit of crop rotation will do us good. Anyway, why should you decide what we do?”
“Over half of us are cabbages. We know what we want.”
A sprout who had been listening and getting worried spoke, “Actually I think you cabbages make up less than a quarter of the whole field.”
“The will of the brassicas hasn’t changed,” Savoy responded furiously. “The field will leave the farm.”

The rains came and the sun shone but the brassicas wilted and withered. Soon there were just decayed roots and rotting leaves. The tractors arrived and ploughed the field. Eric Unwin shrugged. Sometimes crops fail; perhaps the seed was old or had been spoiled or maybe it was a strain that required too much attention. It was time to start over.

………………………….

Jasmine is resting

I think I have fallen into an alternative universe where nothing makes sense anymore. Brexit, Parliament, May – need I say more.

…………………..

I was given a stark example this week of how the law fails transgender people, those without a Gender Recognition Certificate, that is.  A woman was murdered, a suspect who was arrested was known to her.  That situation is familiar and far more common than it should be. Not something for newspapers to make a fuss about. Except, that when the suspect was taken to court and charged with the murder, the name of the victim read out was male. Despite having lived as a woman for many years the victim p1000037had been outed by the court as transgender.  I don’t know what she would have thought about that if she’d been alive but I think she might have been hurt to have her past existence revealed. Why was it released to the public? Because her female status was not respected by the legal system of the UK.  Only if you possess a Gender Recognition Certificate as a transman or transwoman, are you legally the gender you identify with and have that gender on your birth certificate and death certificate.  I do not know why the murdered woman did not possess a GRC, but there are plenty of reasons she could have given.  In fact only about 5,000 of the 500,000 transgendered people in the UK have a GRC (those figures are very, very approximate). Those figures suggest that obtaining a GRC is seen as a problem by many people living in the gender they identify with. Only those with a GRC have a secure legal status and the respect of the law.  That is why a revision of the 2004 Gender Recognition Act is necessary. I’m not sure whether self-identification as male or female is feasible or likely but I would like to see the option of a non-defined gender available.

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Another writers’ group short story this week.  The given topic was “Stars”.  I was probably expected to produce an SF story and I would have enjoyed that prospect, but I decided to do something a little different. Here is “Star” or possibly “Star-child”. Not sure if it works as a short story.  These days my short stories of around 1000 words read a bit like an excerpt or taster of a longer tale. However, I have enough novels in the machine already.

Star

Her feet were sore and her legs ached, but Papa urged her on.
“Not much further, child. The light is going. Look for some dry twigs for our fire.”
She tugged the fur of the ice bear around herself and looked up. Papa was right. The canopy was dark and there were no longer shafts of sunlight like spears of fire. She followed in Papa’s footsteps surveying the ground for kindling.
It wasn’t long before she noticed a change in the light. Although the day was ending her surroundings were lighter. The light came from between the tall tree trunks not from above. Papa gave a cry and hurried forward. She ran after him grasping her bundle of wood.
It was as if the trees would only grow if they were surrounded by their companions. Suddenly they were out in the open with the forest behind them. She scudded to a halt feeling grass on her legs reaching up to her waist. She turned slowly, seeing the line of conifers behind and ahead the grass plain studded with flowers of every colour. In the distance there was a line where the land stopped. Above it, hung the golden ball of the Sun. She looked up seeing the full dome of the sky for the first time in her life, blue-black above the forest, radiant blue above and red around the Sun.
She felt dizzy. “Papa!”
He ran to her, dropping his spear and scooping her into his arms. “I’m sorry, child. I forgot you have not seen all the sky before. It is dazzling isn’t it?”
“I didn’t know the sky was so big,” she said. “You told me that the gods had taken Mama above the sky. Is she way up there?” She pointed upwards.
“Yes, child, that is what I said.” There was a shake to his voice and a tear was in his eye.
“Thank you, Papa. You can put me down now.” She wriggled.
Chuckling, he set her on her feet. He picked up his flint tipped spear and hitched the boar skin over his shoulder.
“I think I see a stream a bit further on. We’ll camp near there. Come on, child, just a few more steps.”
Soon they came to a lazy, meandering brook with a clump of bushes nearby where the grass didn’t grow as tall. Papa removed the skin from his shoulder, took out the fire pot and carefully lit some tinder. Soon he had a fire started.
“Tend the fire child. I will try and find our supper. Do not wander. This land is unfamiliar to you and me.” He strode off with his spear at his shoulder.
She fed twigs to the fire which burned without smoke. Satisfied that it was alight she turned her attention to the flowers that grew amongst the grasses. She picked those that took her fancy and braided their stems together into a ring which she placed on her head of golden hair. Before the Sun had sunk completely below the horizon, Papa returned dangling a dead rabbit from his fist. He muttered approving noises at the fire and her crown, then sat beside her. She watched as he skinned the creature with his knife with the bronze blade and bone handle. He gave her strips of flesh which she fixed to a stick and held in the flames.
It was quite dark by the time they finished eating. She looked up and gasped. The whole dome of the heavens was studded with points of light.
“The stars, Papa,” she cried, “There are so many.”
Papa looked up too. “Wonderful aren’t they.”
“What are stars, Papa?”
He took a breath. “They are holes in the dome of the heavens through which the gods look down on us.”
She let out a sigh. “Does Mama look down on us too?”
“I’m sure she does. Now child, you must settle to sleep. We have more travelling to do tomorrow.”
She curled up alongside him in the grass, pulling the white fur around her.

She awoke with a start. A noise, a cry, had disturbed her. It was still dark but along with the starlight there was a gibbous Moon low in the sky. Papa was on his feet, two hands gripping his spear. It was pointing at two dark-haired figures clothed in dark furs. They edged towards him, stone axes held aloft. She crouched in the grass, watching.
Something caught her eye, high up. A bright streak shot across the sky. Overhead it exploded with a light bigger and brighter than the Sun. A few heart beats later there came a noise like a lion’s roar and wind blew flattening the grass.
She scrambled to her feet with red spots before her eyes and stepped towards Papa. She pointed to the stars.
“What’s happening, Papa?”
The two dark skinned men were immobile. They took one look at her and fell to their knees. They babbled and bowed their heads towards her.
“What are they saying?” she said. Papa came to her side and rested a hand on her shoulder. His other hand still held the spear.
“I don’t know, child. They speak differently to us but some words I recognise. I heard ‘star’ and ‘child’ and ‘light’. I think they believe you are fallen from the stars. They’re worshipping you.”

……………………………

Jasmine makes a decision

It’s ready to go.  Yes, the next Jasmine Frame case, Molly’s Boudoir is available on pre-order on Amazon for Kindle.  Publication date is 30th November for the e-book edition. Order here  (if you’re in the UK).  The price is £2.99 in the UK with relative prices in other markets. The paperback version  will follow soon after.

The events of Molly’s Boudoir, the 4th Jasmine Frame novel, take place several months after  The Brides’ Club Murder. Jasmine has been called for her Gender Confirmation Surgery which will require weeks of recovery and recuperation. Meanwhile events at Molly’s, a shop in Thirsbury (a small town west of Kintbridge) are reaching a climax resulting in a fire and a murder. Tom Shepherd, now a DI, is the investigating officer and he realises that the business at Molly’s requires Jasmine’s input. With the approval of DCI Sloane, Jasmine is invited to join the case as transgender advisor. Despite not being fully fit Jasmine is soon actively involved and pursuing a line of inquiry which leads her into areas of sexual activity that she is unfamiliar with and puts her new female status under test.

With some violence and sexual content, which you may have come to expect from Jasmine Frame’s cases, Molly’s Boudoir takes Jasmine’s story a stage further.

If you would like a free pre-publication version of Molly’s Boudoir in return for a review on Amazon posted on 30th November, contact me here.

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Visit us next week for news of some special offers!

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It’s been a momentous week in the Brexit saga.  It’s total chaos with no-one in power taking responsibility to admit that the paradoxes are unresolvable and the voters must be given the opportunity to vote again, this time with the correct facts.  That’s it. I’m not saying any more. For now.

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Finally here is the next episode of Monochrome, the Jasmine Frame prequel.  The events in this story take place five years before Molly’s Boudoir when Jasmine is still unsure of her gender status.

Monochrome: Part 4

It was a tale Jasmine had read about but had not heard described by the victim. She struggled to accept that it was real.
Angela continued questioning the girl, her tone suggesting she could hardly believe the story herself. ‘Those disgusting men left you alone and drove away?’
The girl nodded. ‘Yeah. Tipped me out of the back, threw my clothes at me and went off.’
‘What did you do?’ Angela asked.
‘Got dressed of course. It was fucking freezing.’
‘Yes, I’m sure it was. What then? Did you set off somewhere?’
‘How could I? I didn’t know where the fuck I was. It was pitch black. I just wandered along the track until I got to this place.’
‘You broke in,’ Jasmine said.
The girl looked belligerent. ‘I didn’t have to break anything. The window was open. I only had to climb in.’
‘You stayed the night? Angela asked.
‘Yeah. There was a duvet on the bed. I rolled myself in it and got warm. I slept. Best night’s sleep I’ve had for yonks.’
‘Why?” Angela said, showing surprise at the girl’s statement.
‘It was dead quiet. I didn’t have the fucking neighbour’s kid screaming all night or my mam moaning. I slept so well I nearly got caught.’
‘By whom?’ Jasmine asked.
‘Some woman. I heard her fiddling with a key in the lock. I just managed to get into the bathroom before she got in. I went out of the window and waited till she left.’
‘It must have been Mrs Williams getting the cottage ready for us,’ Angela said. Jasmine nodded in agreement.
‘Then what did you do?’ she asked.
The girl looked pleased with herself. ‘Climbed back in, of course. The woman had left some food – bread and milk. I really thought my luck was in. It filled me up that did.’
‘So that’s why there wasn’t anything here when we arrived,’ Angela said to Jasmine. ‘I knew Mrs Williams said there would be some basic supplies here for us.’ She turned to the girl “You didn’t leave then?’
The girl shook her head. ‘Why should I? It was nice and warm.’
‘Mrs Williams put the heating on for us,’ Jasmine said.
‘Yeah, I s’pose it was all for you,’ the girl said. ‘When I heard your car, I realised I’d better scat.’
‘But you didn’t go, did you?’ Jasmine said. ‘What did you do for the night?’
‘I hung around outside and when I heard you go to bed, I climbed back into your bathroom, real quiet like. I stayed there until it got light.’
‘You were in our bathroom all night, while we were in the bedroom!’ Angela cried. The girl nodded.’
‘Lucky for you, neither of us needed the loo,’ Jasmine said.
‘I suppose you came back in when we left for our walk,’ Angela said.
The girl nodded.
‘Ate our beans and took my jumper,’ Jasmine accused. The girl smiled defiantly. ‘And I expect you thought you’d do the same today.’
‘Yeah. I got careless though. I wasn’t expecting you back so early.’
‘It was raining,’ Angela explained.
The girl shrugged, ‘Can’t say I noticed. It was nice and comfy staying in. Don’t know what you’re doing going out when it’s this miserable.’
‘We’re getting some fresh air and exercise,’ Jasmine said. ‘How much of our food have you eaten today?’
‘Nothing. Well, just some crisps. I was going to have another tin of beans, but you came back.’
‘You haven’t had much to eat at all since you got here, have you? Not real food. You must be hungry,’ Angela said.
‘A bit. I’m always fucking starving.’
Angela stood up. ‘Well, I think you need a proper meal. I was cooking spag bol tonight. I’m sure there’s enough for three. First though I think we need coffee. Jasmine?’
‘Yes, but don’t you think we should get this girl to the police station?’
The girl leapt up and ran to a corner of the room. She crouched making herself as small as possible. ‘Don’t fucking dump me on the fuzz.’
‘That’s the right thing to do,’ Jasmine said, ‘They’ll investigate and arrest these men who’ve been abusing you.’
The girl shook her head. ‘No! They won’t believe me. They’ll say I just broke into this place to steal stuff. They don’t care about what men do.’
Jasmine realised that as well as physically and sexually abusing the girl, the men had also brainwashed her into thinking that they were above the law, that no-one would believe her story, so it was no point telling anyone in authority. She had read about it in so many cases. How else could so many boys and girls be exploited by so many men?
She approached the girl slowly, held out her hands to her.
‘I’m sorry. Don’t be frightened. I understand. Now I do. Look, we won’t go to the police. Not straight away.’ She coaxed the girl out of the corner, took her hand and guided her back to the sofa.
‘What are you suggesting, Jas?’ Angela said.
Jasmine wasn’t sure what was going through her mind. She started explaining, nevertheless.
‘We’ve got to help her but she’s right. It takes more than one victim telling a story of child sex exploitation before police officers take it seriously. Evidence is needed; not just other victims; things to corroborate their stories.’
Angela joined in. ‘Do you mean, we’ve got to get that evidence for her to be listened to?’
Jasmine nodded. Angela considered. They stared at each other, understanding each other’s thoughts. Moments of silence passed by. The girl watched them both. At last Angela spoke.
‘Okay. We’ll do it. I don’t know how, but I couldn’t spend the rest of our holiday here knowing that we’d handed her back to be abused some more.’
‘And worse,’ Jasmine added.
‘What are you two on about?’ the girl said.
Jasmine faced her. ‘We’re going to try and get your abusers arrested and ensure that when you leave here that you will be safe.’
‘How are yer going to do that?’
Jasmine shrugged. ‘I don’t know yet. We’ll think about a plan.’
‘Meanwhile, I’ll make coffee and dinner,’ Angela said.
‘And you will tell us your name,’ Jasmine said.
‘Er, it’s Nat.’
‘Nat?’ Angela said.
‘My Mum called me Natasha, but Nat could be Nathan too, couldn’t it?’
Jasmine nodded, ‘If you really wanted to be a boy, yes it could. Okay Nat. There’s something you can do while we’re waiting to eat.’
‘Er?’
‘You could have a shower.’
The girl looked surprised. ‘Are you saying I stink?
Jasmine laughed, ‘To put it bluntly. Yes.’
‘I’ll put your clothes in the washer,’ Angela said.
‘I ain’t got any others.’
‘I know that,’ Angela sighed, ‘You can borrow my dressing gown, and some of my clothes. They’re big for you but I don’t think you’ll mind a thick jumper that’s a bit loose on you.’
The girl looked goggle eyed. ‘Are you really going to look after me?’
Jasmine and Angela nodded together.

……………………to be continued.

Jasmine hears a tale

Phew! A majority of Americans have slowed the Trump/Republican goosestep towards right wing dictatorship.  I don’t fully understand the American government system but with the Democrats winning the House of Representatives perhaps a stalemate will ensue. Just so long as the Law of Unexpected Consequences doesn’t operate and something occurs that no-one wants or expects. Trump’s press conference fracas is one.

To home, and an article in last weekend’s Guardian. It concerned the work of the Tavistock Clinic in London, which assesses and treats children with gender dysphoria, together with the recent ITV series Butterfly, which told the story of a family with an MtF child. I was disappointed with the Guardian’s editing of the piece. It struck me that it allowed a group of people, largely parents, to spout untruths as if they were facts with no real “balance”  (how you can have balance between truth and lies I don’t know). The main complaint against the Tavistock was that it doesn’t provide a service for 16-25 year olds. Well, no it doesn’t.  16 year olds are adults in terms of medical care and, yes, we know there isn’t enough cash in the NHS to provide care for all the people with gender issues. The Tavistock itself has seen its number of patients rise in the last ten years from under 100 a year to nearly 2000. It certainly doesn’t push children into non-reversible treatment. Gender Reassignment Surgery (GRS) is not carried out on the NHS on under 16s.

Butterfly was a relatively sensible look at the issue and was advised by Mermaids, the charity for transgender children. Only in the third and last episode with a bit of fraud and a dash to the USA did it get unrealistically dramatic. The arguments for and against Max/Maxine were well-rehearsed and generally answered. It showed how long it takes for a child to get an appointment to be assessed. It showed the depth of the questioning to understand the cause and degree of motivation of the child, and it showed that patients are not immediately handed drugs to delay puberty. It exercised the view (spoken by a grandparent) that perhaps Max was a just a gay boy and showed that that was not the case but revealed that at least society has moved on to largely accept teens can be gay.  It dealt with the question about whether being a girl was truly Maxine’s idea or whether she had been pushed into it by her sister and mother who had accommodated or encouraged her wish to dress girly.

The critics of the show missed all these vital scenes and put forward all the false arguments that show that they were displaying their own prejudices and not considering their own children who may have gone through the trauma of gender dysphoria. To make the points once more:

  • Gender identity is not sexuality. Gender is about who you feel yourself to be. A child with a male body may feel themselves to be a girl or vice versa. Some, like myself may feel themselves to be somewhere in between, not identifying with the stereotypes at either end of the gender spectrum.  Sexuality is about who turns you on, who you want to fuck.
  • Gender identity and therefore, in some children, gender dysphoria, arises from the age of 3 or 4. Perhaps 1% of the population feel a mismatch between their physical sex and gender identity. This feeling may become a realisation that they are trans or gender-queer at any age.
  • Children are quick to learn what their parents, families, society, consider important, or disgusting or unspeakable. Becoming gender dysphoric is not sudden, but someone, even a child, may keep it to themselves for years before something forces them to reveal it.
  • Unless you are adult and have lots of cash, you cannot change your physical or legal gender quickly. The NHS is so hard-pressed it may take a year to get a first meeting with a gender specialist.  There will be a long period of assessment before any treatment is offered. There are many opportunities to turn back. Only if the patient is found to be mentally stable will an adult be allowed to go for GRS.
  • The number of children who have revealed that they are transgender, or gender-queer has grown ten-fold in the last few years but they still make up much less than 1% of their age-group. They and us older gender-questioning people are a tiny minority. Only by the understanding of the vast number of people who have never questioned their gender, can we have our right to life upheld. Traditionally the support of gay people has been important but with some lesbians siding with the radical feminists who deny that transwomen are women, the unity of the LGBT+ community is not secure.

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Layout 1I have received the final formatted versions of Molly’s Boudoir back from Alnpete and so it is go for publication of the Kindle version on 30th November with the paperback version available soon after. I’ll be sending review copies very soon so if you would like to receive one (free in return for an Amazon review on 30th Nov.)  then please contact me here.

The third episode of the Painted Ladies prequel short story, Monochrome, follows. We’re getting to the nub of the story here.

Monochrome: Part 3

Jasmine and Angela waited for the girl to begin but she seemed intent on gazing at Jasmine. Jasmine was impatient to hear her story but before she could urge her to talk, the girl spoke.
‘Are you trying to be a woman?’
‘I’m not trying to be anything,’ Jasmine answered irritably.
“Yes, you are. You’re a bloke but you’re dressed like a girl and wearing a wig.’
Jasmine sighed. ‘I’m trans. Sometimes I’m female and sometimes I’m male.’
The girl screwed up her face. ‘That’s weird.’ She turned to face Angela. ‘But you let him fuck you?’
Angela frowned. She wouldn’t be perturbed by the coarse language but Jasmine wondered how she would answer.
‘We love each other, that’s why we’re married. Jasmine has issues about her gender, but that doesn’t bother me.’
The girl looked puzzled. Which of those concepts troubled her Jasmine wondered – her muddled gender identity or being in love.’
‘You’re a girl,’ Angela said gently. Jasmine thought the statement wasn’t as obvious as it might be because while she was obviously physically female she had a masculine look about her. ‘but you dress boyish.’
‘I wish I was a guy,’ she said.
‘Why?’ Angela asked.
‘Things are easier for boys.’
Jasmine’s impatience won through. ‘Enough of this. What’s your name and why are breaking and entering our cottage.’
‘It’s not your cottage. It’s a holiday place.’
Jasmine waved her hands in frustration. ‘Okay, yes we’ve hired it. But while we’re here it’s ours. Now answer my questions.’
‘I was here first,’ she said.
‘What do you mean?’ Jasmine asked.
‘I was staying here before you arrived the day before yesterday.’
‘Not legally you weren’t. How did you get in?’
‘Through the window in there, of course,’ she pointed to the shower room. The room which Jasmine had thought was too small for anything but a kid to get through. In fact, she wasn’t much more than a kid.
Angela spoke softly, ‘Tell us why you were staying here. Why aren’t you at home?’
The girl snorted. ‘Home! Why I should I stay there? Damp hole and a drug-addled mother. That’s my home.’
‘Where is it?’ Angela asked.
‘Haverfordwest.’
‘That’s twenty miles away,’ Jasmine said. ‘What are you doing here?’
‘They dumped me here.’
‘They?’ Jasmine and Angela said in unison.
‘The guys that shoved me in their car and drove here.’
Jasmine’s eyebrows shot up. ‘Some men abducted you?’
The girl shrugged. ‘Nah, not really. They’d had enough of me.’
‘What do you mean, love?’ Angela said, her question hesitant as if fearing the answer.
‘Enough of pouring cider down my throat and fucking me.’
Angela gasped and Jasmine reached for the girl’s arm. ‘Do you mean that? These men were having sex with you?’
‘Yeah, that’s it. They took it in turns.’
Jasmine felt as though she was in her nightmare. She was back at the police station in their claustrophobic cubicle going through computer records and websites. How many times had she heard this story; a young girl being passed between older men, given alcohol or drugs and made to have sex with them.
‘No, it can’t be happening here too,’ Jasmine cried.
‘Doesn’t it go on everywhere?’ the girl said calmly.
‘Didn’t you say no when they asked for sex?’ Angela asked.
The girl laughed. ‘They didn’t ask. They just did it. Okay at first they were nice, gave me cider and some new clothes. I felt really grown up. Then they started to touch me up. Well, that’s fair enough isn’t it. You gotta pay for stuff. Then they wanted me to feel their cocks. I wasn’t in a position to say no, was I. There was four of them and just me. And I was woozy.’
‘This was a few days ago; before they drove you out here,’ Angela said, her face white.
‘Nah. That was months ago. They moved on to fucking since then.’
‘The same four men?’ Jasmine enquired.
The girl shrugged, ‘Them and others. They sort of passed me around, took their turns.’
‘But what did your family do about it?’ Angela said in an anguished tone.
‘I told you. I’ve only got me Mam. She’s out of it most of the time. They gave her some stuff to keep her quiet.’
‘What about school?’
‘I went most days.’
‘Didn’t the teachers wonder what was wrong with you?’
‘There wasn’t anything wrong with me. Except for a hangover now and then.’
‘But you were being raped by all these men.’
‘Yeah, well that’s normal isn’t. It’s what blokes do. It’s what girls are for innit.’
‘It damn well is not,’ Angela said. ‘You should have gone to the Police.’
‘Why? What would they do? Do you think I was the first and only girl these guys had? The fuzz couldn’t give a fuck.’
‘Some of us do,’ Jasmine said.
The girl looked at him with wide eyes. ‘You’re a cop?’ Jasmine nodded. The girl laughed and laughed and laughed.
‘What’s funny?’ Jasmine asked feeling as if she was missing something.
“A tranny cop! That’s a brilliant joke,’ the girl said through her continuing giggles.
‘They don’t know I’m trans,’ Jasmine admitted.
‘Oh, you’ve got a secret too. What will happen if the bosses find out about you?’
‘Let’s get back to you,’ Angela said. ‘If these men have been, um, using you, why did they dump you out here.’
The girl looked at Angela with sad eyes, sad that Angela should ask such a stupid question.
‘They got fed up with me.’
‘Bored with having sex with a minor,’ Jasmine said.
‘Maybe,’ the girl shrugged, ‘there’s always another little tart to fuck. But, the main reason was I made them do it.’
‘What did you do?’ Angela asked.
‘I cut my hair and started dressing in jeans and sloppy shorts instead of the little dresses they liked to see me in.’
‘Why?’
‘I thought that if I looked more like a boy they’d treat me like a boy.’
‘Why be a boy?’ Jasmine asked.
‘I told you. Boys have it easy. They get to give the orders, have the money and the girls.’
Angela spoke. ‘You thought that if you looked like a boy, men would treat you like a boy.’
‘I s’pose that was it. Stupid really. Didn’t go as I expected.’
‘Why not?’ Jasmine asked even though she thought that the girl’s scheme was wildly optimistic.
‘They knew I was girl, didn’t they, and some of them liked the idea of fucking me like they did boys.’
Angela let out a gasp as she realised the extent of the abuse the young boys and girls experienced. It was all too familiar to Jasmine and she felt sickened to be hearing it from the girl’s own mouth.
‘Is that what they did?’
For the first time the girl looked embarrassed. ‘Yeah. They hurt me. I lost it a bit.’
‘What do you mean?’ Angela said.
‘I hit one of them.’
‘What did they do?’ Jasmine asked, nervous of the expected answer.
‘Slapped me around. Not on my face of course, not somewhere obvious. Shoved me in a van with my clothes and dumped me out here.’

……………………………..to be continued

Jasmine in her own words

WP_20181018_15_35_38_ProYesterday (Friday 20th Oct.) was the closing day of the consultation on changes to the Gender Recognition Act.  When the GRA became law in 2004 it was hailed as a huge advance for transsexual people.  For the first time transsexual people were recognised in law and they acquired the right to change their birth certificates to match the gender they identified with and lived as. The rights of holders of a Gender Recognition Certificate were given further confirmation by the Equality Act of 2010 which included gender reassignment (i.e. those people holding a GRC) as a protected minority.

However to acquire those rights transgendered people have to submit themselves to medical examination. A diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria is the first hurdle. This is followed by at least two years of living full-time in the gender they identify with and the intention to take the medication and undergo the surgery at some point.  When the last occurs depends for most people on the length of the NHS waiting list for gender reassignment (or confirmation) surgery. Further surgery e.g. breast enhancement, facial feminisation, etc. is rarely carried out on the NHS. Thanks to the complexity (and cost) of applying for a GRC it is estimated that only about 5,000 people (transmen and women) have actually received it in the last 14 years.  The total number of transgendered people in the UK is probably somewhere between 500,000 and 1 million. For some time there has been pressure to update the Act and make it easier for transsexual people to achieve their aims.

Many transgender people do not wish to be medicalised and wish to self-declare their gender, if indeed they identify with a binary gender at all. Some transsexual people do not feel it necessary to surgically or medically alter their bodies but wish to have their gender identity recognised in law. Unfortunately, it is not just transgendered people who are involved in this consultation. Women (with some male supporters) have objected to loosening the medical constraints on transitioning and in fact, many women in this group, deny the right of transwomen to declare themselves as women. Most of these opponents to change want the law kept as it is while some, I am sure, would like to see the Act repealed and transsexual people returned to the limbo they existed in before 2004. Their reasons for this position is a perceived threat to women from allowing transwomen to enter their “safe” spaces such as ladies’ loos. I don’t think there has ever been a case, anywhere in the world, of a transwoman raping a woman in a female washroom. If indeed such a case ever occurred it would be ridiculous to tar all transwomen with the same rapist brush. Whatever the state of the GRA there is nothing to stop a man putting on a female disguise in order to attack women anywhere.  A transwoman is not a man in a frock.

The silly thing is that transwomen are on the same side as women in general in wanting to feel safe from attack and in wanting equality in all fields of life. The anger with which some women have attacked transgender people is startling and terrifying.  Some transgender activists have responded in kind and have campaigned to stop the women’s arguments being aired. I do not support that. Freedom of speech means just that, but there is no freedom to hate. All people should have the opportunity to express their opinion and explain their position. They should only be silenced if they threaten another person.

I hope the GRA is simplified and I hope that the women opposing transpeople do not get their way. In fact I hope that women will recognise transpeople as their supporters. I am not transsexual so not affected by changes to the GRA and am not likely to have my wishes answered – i.e. the ability to declare myself of neither gender, or both. Jasmine, however is.  Here is what she has to say.

“Hi, I’m Jasmine Frame. I’m a woman and I can prove it. I have a Gender Recognition Certificate and a vagina. But it hasn’t always been so clear-cut. 

I started feeling that my concept of gender was different to my classmates just before I became a teenager, when puberty was firing off all around me. Prior to that I hadn’t really thought about what I was. I had an older sister, Holly, so I quite happily played girly games like dressing up with her. I wasn’t interested in boy’s sports like football or cricket but I got into athletics at quite an early age. I had friends that were boys and girls who accepted me for being me, but gender rarely seemed to come into it. Then as the boys and girls around me started to change and things began happening to my body It came to me that I was going to be a man and I wasn’t sure I wanted that.  I learned pretty quickly that wearing feminine clothes wasn’t acceptable in a teenage boy so began to do it secretly. Holly was the first one to discover that and she helped me develop my dual persona of James and Jasmine. I realised I was transgender but was I transsexual or a transvestite? I didn’t know.

Meeting Angela at university was a liberation but also, perhaps, allowed me to put off a decision. Angela loved me as James and as Jasmine and was happy to be seen with either. I was happy having sex as a man although with the desire to experience it as a woman. Deciding to join the police in 2004 seemed, at the time, to be a decision time. I would be a man who liked cross-dressing in my spare time. But I was wrong. The need to be female didn’t go away. Angela recognised it as much as I did, probably sooner than me.  So in 2010 I decided to transition and Angela and I parted regretfully. The police, in theory, were obliging but I met obstacles from some of my colleagues. I resigned in 2012 having started on the process of becoming the woman I felt myself to be and set out to earn a living as a private investigator. Now every experience, every medical and surgical treatment, strengthened my identity as a woman (well, there were some cases that forced me to think about my position). Now that I have completed all the surgery I need and want (I have to take the hormones for the rest of my life) I am certain that I am a woman. I can’t say exactly what a woman is, after all, we are all different with various characteristics, personalities and emotions. I can’t give birth and that Y chromosome still lurks in every cell of my body but the X chromosome is there. 

Getting the GRC was a long drawn out process. Living as a woman while still retaining most of my male characteristics was difficult. We are always on edge, wondering if this or that stranger is going to take offence at our existence. Even now when a simple examination  of my lower region would convince most people that I am a woman, I am still wary of the person who looks closely at my broad shoulders, narrow pelvis (only slightly broadened by the fat the hormones move around the body) and somewhat masculine nose and jaw line. Nevertheless, I will stand shoulder to shoulder with women, for women’s rights and equality with men in all fields. I am a woman.”

Read about Jasmine’s transition and life as a woman in the Jasmine Frame novels and novellas.

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg…………………………

Jasmine bides her time

WP_20181006_13_59_27_Pro (2)

“Meet the Author” at Wellington (Shrops) Library.

I’ve been reading Grayson Perry’s book Descent of Man. Some people may wonder at a transvestite commenting on the crisis in masculinity. He does, in fact, refer to his lifetime of dressing in female clothes and how this gives him a perspective on the life of a male. I agree with a lot of his points. With the suicide epidemic and mental health issues among men, the poor educational performance of boys, the rise of gang culture and its associated violence, it is obvious that men are in crisis. Perry rightly explains the problems as being due to the change in employment opportunities for men – the loss of physically demanding manual work – and the changes in society as a result of progress in equality (of all minority groups).  He is also correct that men are disadvantaged by their failure to accept equality of women and by sticking to old stereotypes; a world of equality would be, if not a utopia, at least an improvement on today’s environment.  However I lack Perry’s optimism that men are changing and that the adjustments necessary are happening.

Yes, there are more men who share child-rearing, household chores and other “feminine” roles. Yes, many men accept women as their equal, and transgender/non-binary people as “normal”. But, and this is the big barrier to entry to that wonderful fantasyland of equality, a sizeable number, majority or minority I’m not sure, of men do not accept those things even if they make a pretence of doing so. Misogyny, homophobia and transphobia (to ignore, for now, other prejudices) lurk just below the surface and can leap out to bite you given the slightest excuse.

I think it is clear that all the so-called “populists”gaining power around the world at present are unreconstructed cavemen at heart. They want a return to the “golden days” where “real” men controlled everything and everyone, when women knew their place and spent all their lives in child-rearing and drudgery. They’d like to see weirdoes like gays, trannies and people of different races confined to ghettoes or not suffered to live.

The fact that so many authoritarian males have seized power recently, the USA, Russia, China, Hungary, Turkey to name just a few, should be a warning to us that the gains in acceptance and equality of the last seventy years are not secure. The backlash starts with little things e.g. The US government refusing visas for unmarried partners of embassy workers when gay marriage is still not permitted in many states; in the UK it is now permissable for shopkeepers to refuse to serve you if they don’t like your message even if it is not abusive or threatening; increasing arguments about the use of gendered toilets by trans people, and so on.

To oppose the rollback of equal rights, minorities must show solidarity with each other. In this situation women are a minority as much as the transgendered.

………………………………..

A reminder, that Molly’s Boudoir will be published soon. To get a free pre-publication e-book copy in return for a launch day review, write to me here.

This week I was asked if all the Jasmine Frame stories involved a murder of a transperson. Well, yes and no. When I began writing Jasmine stories I realised that she needed an emotional involvement in her cases.  That means that each plot, each murder, should have some gender identity component. But gender questioning covers a whole lot of different issues and  I have tried to make each of the Jasmine stories quite different. Here is a brief (and not comprehensive) guide to different “flavours” of gender identity issues.  Can you guess which stories each is found in?

transgender – a general term for everyone who has gender identity questions.

transsexual (transwoman, transman) – a person who feels that their gender identity is different to the sex assigned to them at birth.  They may or may not transition to live in the gender they identify with and may or may not proceed with medical and/or surgical treatment.

transvestite – a person who enjoys wearing female clothes either privately (sometimes secretly) or in public but does not live permanently as a woman. Originally the term implied a fetish for female clothes. Cross-dresser is a synonym which lacks this psychological definition. Some transvestites have an attraction for particular items of female clothing such as corsets, wedding dresses, high heel shoes.

draq queens – people (mainly men) who dress in an exaggerated form of female attire usually for entertainment purposes. They may be gay or straight, but are not often transgender.

she-males – men who dress in female clothes and may live as women but retain their male genitals to have sexual intercourse with men or women. Some may have breast enhancement to give themselves a female figure.

sissy – men who are forced (usually willingly) to wear certain forms of female dress e.g. French maids, tarts, little girls.

gender fluid/gender queer/non-binary/androgynous – a person who does not accept the binary nature of gender, rejects male and female stereotypes, and may adopt an appearance that is both male and female or neither.

…………………………..

 

 

Jasmine into the future

Are we turkeys looking forward to Christmas and a restful break from the business of fattening ourselves up? It seems that we are doing something similar. Dark clouds are building while we continue with our jobs, chores, pleasures and personal worries.  The Brexit cliff is getting near and May is heading towards it with unthinking determination. Her vehicle may be like one of those clown’s cars from which bits of body and headlights and things fall off, but still she has the steering wheel in her corpse-like grip and her high-heeled shoe presses the accelerator to the floor. I can’t believe that she doesn’t realise that when she drives out into that void that the next step will be a plummet into chaos, degradation and bloody unrest, but she acts as if she doesn’t know or care. She certainly doesn’t appear to have the strength of character to stamp her foot on the brakes and say enough is enough. Leaving the EU to strike out alone is not the easy or desirable task that the Brexiteers said it would be.

I suppose one could argue that leaving the EU club should be a simple act of cancelling our membership, while it has turned out to be more like trying to terminate a contract to a gym. But the EU is not a simple club. For over forty years the 60 million people of the UK and the 300 million people of the rest of Europe have become intertwined. We rely on them and they on us.  Many treaties and agreements have been signed which bind us together and of course there is that little matter of about half of our exports and imports being to and from Europe. It was always going to be as difficult to split us off as it is to separate conjoined twins with heart, lungs and more shared between them.

What we have in fact is a slow-motion coup taking place with the Brexiteers manoeuvring to seize power when May finally succumbs. They will succeed if the majority of the Conservative acquiesces because they prefer to hold onto government rather than take the honest, moral and democratic path and ask the voting public for a second opinion – an opinion based on the true facts of what being in the EU means and what the consequence of leaving will be.

……………………….

This week we started Welsh lessons. Having moved into the Principality it was something we wanted to do. I learned Welsh up to the age of 16 and even have an O level in it but I haven’t used the language in fifty years and, actually, I was never much good at it. Back in school we didn’t do much conversation and I always found it difficult to learn vocabulary. Learning science was easier because there were patterns and laws and explanations which you don’t get in a list of unrelated words. Now I’m trying again. Today the emphasis is on talk – starting with simple questions and answers. Hopefully it will be fun and the words will stick this time.

…………………………

WP_20180913_14_43_11_Pro (2).jpgMolly’s Boudoir is back from the first round of copyediting so it won’t be long now before I can set a publication date for the e-book and paperback. One thing I have to do is write the acknowledgements. As well as the usual people who have assisted me in getting the book published, I will have to thank the people whose own writings I have used in my research. You see, in this book Jasmine at last reaches the stage of having her Gender Reassignment (or Confirmation) Surgery. I’m not going to reveal how it goes but on this occasion I am not writing from personal knowledge.  I am transgender or gender-fluid (whatever you want to call me) and have no wish to undergo any medical procedures if I can help it. I have had to use accounts written by transwomen who have been through the process, in particular, Trans A Memoir by Juliet Jacques (pub. Verso).

Does having GRS, mean that Jasmine’s reached the end of her journey? Well, no it doesn’t. Again without giving anything away about Molly’s Boudoir, I do intend writing a fifth novel, provisionally titled Impersonator. Once that is done we’ll have to see if Jasmine has a future.

 

Jasmine in waiting

I suppose I have to return to the subject; it is the mammoth (bigger than an elephant and woolly round the edges) in the room. It’s not that nobody can see it and not that they don’t talk about it – the news is incessant – but most of the conversation is pointless or dishonest.  I refer of course to the imminent departure of the UK from the EU.  In recent weeks we have had May and her supporters (more accurately, the people who want to stay in jobs) defending the indefensible which are the “Chequers proposals” – they appear to be nonsense what I have heard or read about them. Then we have had the Brexiteers ganging up and giving us their considered opinions and declarations. Considered is in italics because their ideas are wishful-thinking pipedreams with not a single sensible sentence amongst them. However, while leaving the EU was once upon a time (yes, it was fiction) going to mean immediate riches and responsibility-free independence, now we have to look forward to decades of painful recovery from this nightmare. The leavers seem to believe that the EU owes the UK something. It doesn’t. We are leaving and causing huge disruption to the EU so why should the other 27 countries smooth the path and give the UK better terms than anyone else. Meanwhile countries and economies a lot larger than us are waging a trade war which will have consequences for everyone. An easy life ahead? I don’t think so. That mammoth is rotting and creating a big stink.

In the last week or two we have been establishing a “normal” routine in our new home; joining groups to pursue former interests and finding new ones. Being in a writers’ group has been something I have enjoyed and found rewarding for a long time. This week I attended a group that holds great promise. I was made very welcome, they showed an interest in my writings, many of the members who I spoke to are actively engaged in their own projects and, most important, they were prepared to offer constructive comment on each other’s offerings and not just pointless platitudes. They meet weekly (for morning coffee) which is another plus as it offers more opportunities for discussion and sharing of ideas.

WP_20180913_14_42_23_ProOf course, some of the new groups are meeting me in my more feminine guise. As I am increasingly mixing and matching genders rather than being simply transgender I am aware that this can cause confusion. In fact everyone I have met so far as been wonderfully welcoming and accepting, but names and pronouns are a difficulty. Now, I insist, and it is the truth, that I don’t mind what name I am called or which set of pronouns are applied. I wish that our language would move forward to provide a set of widely known non-gendered pronouns (I don’t particularly like being referred to as “it”) but I think that is a long way off when most people have so far had no cause to consider a society without gender. It’s a work in progress.

Last week I revealed the cover of Molly’s Boudoir, the 4th Jasmine Frame novel. Here is the back cover burb. Let me know what you think. Does it make you want to read the novel?

Jasmine Frame is recuperating from surgery and bored. Her daily exercises and residual soreness are holding her back from the life of a private investigator. The lack of a functional car is another problem. Nevertheless, when DI Tom Shepherd requests her help with the arson and murder at Molly’s in the quiet town of Thirsbury, she is eager to get on the case.

With help from her partner, Viv, she gets mobile and is soon delving into the weird sexual practises of the owners of Molly’s, finding that some men will go to any lengths to fulfil their urges. Jasmine knows all about urges but finds that one of hers, the need to investigate, gets her into trouble that could threaten her new womanhood.

Molly’s Boudoir is now with the lovely people who will point out the errors and omissions and transform my word-processing into a publishable form. Not long to wait now!

………………………………

Jasmine has a headache

No, I’m not going to comment on the government’s No-Deal-Brexit plans, or the guilty pleas by Trump’s former henchmen, or other news from around the world – it’s all too awful to contemplate.  Nor am I going to comment on the A level or GCSE results other than to say I am glad I no longer have to explain that the miniscule rises and falls in “pass” rates is of no significance when the goal-posts of exam systems and standards are altered at the whim of the Secretary of Education. I’d prefer to reflect on what was perhaps the first week of our new normal life in our new home.

I swung a tennis racquet for the first time in many years, didn’t feel utterly knackered afterwards and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Lou joined a gym and did some exercise classes, and I did some writing and some group talks/discussions about transgendered people. All good. So life can go on while the world seems to be in turmoil.

Oh and it’s rained a bit.

WP_20180516_13_29_08_ProSo let’s get on with Jasmine’s latest adventure. Actually, first I’ll comment that the next novel, Molly’s Boudoir, is getting close to going to press. I now have a cover (thanks Scott), which I will reveal shortly, and some favourable and helpful comments (thanks Barbara). Now I have to dig into my pocket and purse to find the coppers to pay for copyediting, formatting and the print setup. Ideas about how to market this fourth Jasmine Frame novel would be much appreciated.

We’ve reached episode 10 of Negative. The mystery has been revealed but the jeopardy isn’t over.

Negative: Part 10

‘Who are you? How did you get in here?’
The female voice penetrated Jasmine’s stupor. A hammer was banging at the inside of her skull and there was an ache in her shoulder. She shifted her position and found she was wedged against a wall. She opened her eyes. The light made her blink and squint at the woman standing over her.
She moaned. ‘Er, you must be Ceri’s mother.’
‘That’s who I am. I asked who you were.’
Jasmine shuffled so that she was sitting on the tiled floor looking up at the woman, who was dark haired and appeared to be in her forties.
‘I’m Jasmine Frame. I’m a friend of Ceri’s.’
Ceri’s mother straightened up. ‘Oh, I know. Ceri mentioned you. You’re staying at the hotel.’
Jasmine nodded but wished she hadn’t. She felt her head. There didn’t seem to be any blood or noticeable lumps.
‘That’s right. I heard that the police had taken her in and came round to see if I could help.’
‘What happened to you?’
‘It was Alun.’ Jasmine got on to her knees and using the door jamb hauled herself to her feet.
‘Alun!’ the woman raised a hand to her mouth. ‘He didn’t attack you, did he? Alun wouldn’t do that.’
Jasmine wasn’t as certain as the young man’s mother, but she wasn’t going to accuse him.
‘No, I don’t think he meant to hurt me. He was rushing out and knocked me over. I banged my head.’
The woman’s mood changed. ‘Oh, I’m sorry. Look. Do want to sit down. I’ll get you a glass of water.’ She took Jasmine’s arm and guided her into the lounge and into the chair. She went away and came back moments later with a glass of water.
‘Alun doesn’t know his own strength, and when he gets something into his head he doesn’t think.’
Jasmine took the glass from her and had a sip. The ache in her head and shoulder was subsiding now that she was sitting comfortably.
‘Why did he leave you in a hurry? Where’s he gone?’
That question was on Jasmine’s mind. She sipped the water.
‘We’d been talking about Tegan Jones.’
The mother drew in a breath. ‘The police are questioning Ceri about her. They think she had something to do with how she died.’
‘Not Ceri,’ Jasmine said, ‘But Alun did.’
‘What!’ The woman rocked on her feet as if she was going to faint. She sat down heavily on the sofa. ‘Alun wouldn’t hurt anyone. He can’t have killed that woman.’
‘Perhaps not deliberately, but as you said, he doesn’t think things through.’ Jasmine was sure that Alun’s mother was correct and not just protecting him as any mother would do. ‘He did know that Tegan had been persecuting Ceri for being transsexual and he decided to do something for his sister.’
‘What?’ she whispered.
‘He met Tegan at the hotel last night when she finished work and took her onto the headland.’
‘Took her?’
‘Well, abducted her. Knocked her out when she struggled, I think, and carried her to the cliff.’
‘No! He didn’t throw her off. Don’t say he did that.’
Jasmine stretched a hand across to the upset woman. ‘No, I don’t think he did that but he did leave her on the edge, unconscious, in the dark.’
The mother cupped her mouth and let out an anguished sob. ‘He doesn’t understand.’ She stared at Jasmine. ‘But where is he? Where did he dash off to?’
‘I don’t know. We’d been talking. He told me what he had done. I probably said that he might have caused Tegan’s death. He rushed out and knocked me over.’
‘You put the responsibility on Alun.’
‘Well, yes. I was trying to make him understand what he had done, even if he hadn’t actually killed her.’
‘You blamed him. He can’t take that. He gets worked up if he’s told off – for anything. He runs away. He can’t help it. In the past we would have said he was simple. Now they say Alun has learning difficulties. He’s just a child in many ways.’
‘I realise that,’ Jasmine felt she was being accused of driving Alun into some kind of fit.
‘He always goes up the headland when he runs out.’
‘He mentioned Tud’s Leap.’
The woman stood up. ‘That’s where he’s gone then. Oh, I do hope he’s safe.’ She rushed from the room. Jasmine followed, hurrying to keep up though the ache in her head was like a cricket ball rattling around an iron bucket.
Alun’s mother dashed through the front doorway and opened the door to the car parked at the kerb. Jasmine ran around the car and tugged at the passenger door.
‘What are you doing?’ the woman cried.
‘I’m coming too,’ Jasmine answered falling into the passenger seat. The engine started and they lurched forward. Jasmine reached for the seat belt and struggled to fit it into its slot as the car swayed around bends. The engine screamed as they started to climb the steep hill.
Jasmine dug into her bag which, miraculously, had remained around her neck. She pulled out her phone and dialled three nines.
‘What are you doing?’ the steering-wheel gripping woman asked.
‘The police. We may need them to help find Alun and they need to know that Ceri didn’t kill Tegan.’ The control centre replied and Jasmine recited the situation in as few words as she could manage.
The car turned abruptly, leaving the metalled road and joining a stony track that headed across moorland towards the open sky. Jasmine’s head hit the headlining as the car bounced and the phone flew out of her hand. The suspension complained. They came to a sudden halt and the woman dived out of the driver’s seat leaving the door open.
Jasmine unclipped herself, scrabbled around on the floor for her phone, found it and got out of the car. She staggered across the rough ground trying to catch up with the woman. Her feet caught in rabbit holes and struck outcrops of rock. She could only glance up every few paces to see where the woman was going. She paused for breath, lifted her head and saw anther figure illuminated by the setting sun behind them. It was easy to identify the figure as Alun. He as facing the sea. His mother rushed towards him.
‘Stop,’ Jasmine called, ‘don’t surprise him.’
The woman took a few more steps and stopped. She turned around as Jasmine caught her up.
‘Look, I know you know him better than I do,’ Jasmine said, ‘but if he’s upset and unsettled at realising what he might have done to Tegan he could do anything. Approach him calmly as if this is normal evening walk on the clifftops.’
The woman looked at her, considered, then turned back and slowly walked towards the standing figure.
‘Alun,’ she called in a light and jolly voice, ‘It’s getting a bit late for being up here isn’t it? Time for supper.’
Jasmine hung back. Her presence may spook the young man into another ill-considered action. She didn’t want to feel responsible for him falling to his death as Tegan had presumably done.
Alun turned to face his mother. Jasmine was close enough to see that he was standing on the very edge of the cliff. She moved sideways intending to circle around the young man and get to the clifftop herself.
‘I didn’t mean to hurt her, Mummy,’ Alun said, in the voice of a small, contrite child but with the pitch of an adult male. ‘She’d been horrid to Ceri but I didn’t want to hurt her.’
His mother stepped towards the cliff on the other side of the young man. ‘I know, love. You couldn’t help it. You thought you were helping Ceri. There’s no point being here now. Let’s go home.’
‘I put her down here,’ Alun said, facing his mother but looking down at the ground. ‘She was sleeping. I went home.’
‘Yes, love. . .’
Sirens pierced the still, evening air. Jasmine saw Alun jerk. She was alongside him now, both within a metre of the sheer drop, twenty metres between them. Jasmine dropped to her hands and knees and crept towards Alun.

………………………….to be continued.

 

Jasmine is waking

I could start this week’s piece with a rant about inept solicitors but I won’t. Let’s try to be positive.

There was the lovely news about the person in the Netherlands who has become the first legal non-binary person. They were born with an intersex condition and has spent time living as male and female but now has settled for a non-gendered life.  It was a struggle but the Dutch government finally accepted it. Perhaps it opens the way for other intersex people to adopt a similar life-style. However, I don’t think it offers too much hope for those like me who are not intersex but identify as gender-fluid or gender-variant and want to reject labelling as male or female.

Then there was the great day we had at the Hay Literary Festival last week. We always have a good time at Hay but this was different as I was contributing to a workshop on Gender, Sexuality and Identity organised by the young people’s mental health charity, Strong Young Minds. In fact I was asked to introduce the topic and guide the audience into the discussion groups. We had a good and varied audience who took part enthusiastically and the group facilitators and notetakers did a fantastic job. We hope the outcomes are greater awareness, a network for LGBTQ+ youth and further opportunities to spread the message viz. BU (i.e. be yourself).

Of course there was another highlight to the day – a peer inside the Green Room at Hay where all the speakers relax. Actually a bit more than a “peer”. We were welcomed in, given a glass of wine and had a sit down to eat our packed lunch.  Oh, and the loos were pretty smart too.

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This week we reach the concluding part of my SF story, Benefactors. Well, it’s the last part so far. When you get to the end you will see that it’s not really the end of the story. I have been thinking about a millennia spanning tale taking humans out to perhaps meet the Benefactors but it has rather ground to a halt at the moment. Meanwhile, I have been thinking about Jasmine Frame’s return.  Yes, she will be back in a new transgender-themed crime story next week – I just have to write it. . .

Benefactors: Part 9

The change in engine note after the helicopter touched down was what woke Jock. Moments later the door opened revealing another helmeted military figure standing on a small landing field of old and cracked concrete. Jock undid his harness, stretched his arms and legs and stepped out into a cloudy evening that was considerably colder than the previous stop. Not having had his personal possessions returned to him Jock had no idea how long the journey had lasted. He looked around, seeing that they were in a valley between moderately high and rugged mountains. Scotland, Jock decided.
There was a row of single storey huts on one side of the landing field. From the distance, they looked practically derelict relicts of the Cold War or even earlier. A figure was striding towards him from the buildings. Jock thought the person was familiar. He began to walk to meet her. A few steps confirmed his hopes.
‘Professor Patel,’ Jock called, his words drowned by the roar of the helicopter taking off behind him. He turned to see it rise and turn and head off down the valley.
‘Jock!’ Helen called and ran towards him. They met and embraced in an awkward but emotional hug. ‘Thank goodness you’re here,’ Helen said when they parted.
‘I don’t know where “here” is, Professor. What’s going on?’
‘It’s Helen. We don’t need titles here and I think we’re going to be together for some time. I don’t know where “here” is either and it hasn’t got a name but it’s where we’re going to study the data in the tree genome.’
Jock stopped walking, shivered and shook his head. ‘I don’t get it. They killed my guide, destroyed the last tree, and shut me away. I thought the next stop was an unmarked grave. Now you say they want to know what the tree’s all about.’
Helen nodded. ‘I’ll explain all I can, but let’s get you inside. It’s a colder autumn here wherever we are.’ They entered the nearest building. It had paint peeling from the concrete walls and the vinyl covering on the floor was lifting in places.
‘What is this place?’ Jock said.
‘I think it was a research station from the 60s. Biological warfare I expect. It’s been mothballed for half a century but that doesn’t mean it’s been looked after. I think the government thinks it’s remote enough to keep our work secret.’
‘So we’re working for the British government,’ Jock shrugged.
‘I think so.’ Helen explained how she and Darmaan had been arrested or kidnapped depending on your point of view and how she had been facing a memory wipe given some sort of legitimacy by government anti-radicalisation laws. ‘But I convinced them that they needed to take the tree data seriously.’
‘How did you do that? They seemed to be paranoid about any of it getting out.’
‘They are but they’re more scared of others using the data first. I suggested that there may be more examples of hidden messages in genomes waiting to be found in other parts of the world.’
Jock shook his head. ‘I don’t think so. The Rift Valley was where modern humans evolved. There’s the pinch point where they almost didn’t make it. You know we’re all descended from one female. Well, perhaps there were other women in that surviving group but their descendants died out. Something happened to improve the odds of survival for that bunch of humans a quarter of a million years ago. I think it was the Tree. We were given one chance.’
‘Shh,’ Helen held a finger to her lips. ‘Keep that to yourself I don’t think they’ve had time to install surveillance yet. Let them think that we’re in a race to decode the data.’
‘Maybe we are. The Chinese mining operation that destroyed the grove could be a cover. Perhaps they took samples too.’
‘So we’ve got our work cut out.’
‘But there aren’t any trees. They’re all gone.’ Jock shook his head sadly.
Helen stopped at a steel door. She pushed on the handle. The door swung opened as if recently greased. They stepped into a small laboratory. There was plastic sheeting draped from the ceiling and covering the windows. It felt warmer than in the corridor. A bench in the centre of the room was covered with trays of small glass jars.
Jock let out a gasp of glee. He leapt forward bending to peer at the bottles. ‘They’re . . .’
‘Tissue cultures,’ Helen said leaning to look inside a bottle at the short pale shoot and the tiny leaves that were just beginning to open.
‘How. . .?’ Jock asked almost speechless as he examined jar after jar.
‘Your employers. Your un-named drug company. They had started the cultures to obtain the neuroactive drug you discovered. All their work has been transferred here along with their staff. I think the government has done a deal with the company to keep it secret.’
Jock straightened up. ‘The God-tree survives.’
Helen took Jock’s hand and tugged him back to the corridor. ‘Yes, but that’s not what we’re here for. Come on.’
They walked a little further until Helen pushed open another door. Jock was dazzled by the colours and flickering illumination. The room was filled with holographic displays hanging in the air, moving, changing, flicking off, new ones appearing. In the centre of the room, almost hidden by the maze of pictures and text, was a figure.
‘Darmaan. Jock Fraser’s here,’ Helen called. The displays disappeared revealing another drab, decaying room with a single pendant light hanging over Darmaan Adams. Darmaan stepped towards them arm extended.
‘Jock! At last. Helen’s said so much about you.’ Darmaan grabbed Jock’s hand and pumped it vigorously. Jock always considered himself an action man, a fearless explorer always prepared for the unexpected but the way today had turned out was too much for even him. He collapsed onto an old wooden stool and stared at Helen and Darmaan with his mouth open.
‘I’ll explain,’ Helen said. ‘The government guy who was organising my memory wipe believed my story of what the Tree meant. I have to hand it to them. Once they make up their mind to act things happen. I was left alone in a comfy cell for less than two days. Then they came for me and brought me here. That was yesterday evening. Darmaan arrived this morning long with the drug company guys and gals. That’s it for now except for a company of soldiers who are guarding the perimeter. I’m not sure if they are keeping snoopers out or us in.’
‘Probably both,’ Jock said. ‘Where are the tissue team now?’
‘Having some supper in the common room,’ Darmaan said.
Helen nodded. ‘We were going to join them until I heard the helicopter.’
‘And I was too engrossed here to stop,’ Darmaan added.
Jock looked around the bare and decrepit laboratory. ‘But you said this place was out of action for fifty years.’
‘It was,’ Helen nodded vigorously, ‘It’s a mess but the soldiers cleaned up some of the rooms, rigged up a power feed and brought in a water supply. As I said, they did a lot in two days. For now, we’re going to be living rough. You’re used to that aren’t you, Jock?’ Jock nodded, ‘’But we have the Tree and the data Darmaan extracted from the genome. We can make a start on understanding it.’
‘Working for the government.’ Jock said.
‘Yes, but we’re still alive with our minds intact and we have an amazing task in front of us.’
Jock didn’t look as grateful as Helen expected. ‘The drug in the Tree enabled the people to work together for the good of the race. It gave them the edge over their competitors and here we are today. We don’t know who planted the trees but what did they expect to happen when their protégés became successful enough to decode the genome.’
Darmaan said, ‘That’s what we’re going to find out.’

……………………..The End (for now)

Jasmine is worrying

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This is what a transgender/gender-fluid person may look like.

It is disappointing (probably an understatement) when a group of people trying to end discrimination break into factions which fight each other. It’s happened in the fight for female equality where certain radical feminists now seem to devote their time to accusing transwomen of not being women and of retaining their “male privileges”.  That dispute has become very bitter with trans activists attempting to prevent well known feminists have a stage to speak their anti-trans thoughts.

Now there is a split in the transgender/non-binary world caused by possible changes to the Gender Recognition Act. A group of transwomen (it looks like all women, I can’t see any men named) wrote to the Guardian last week, and perhaps other papers, and at  least one of the named has spoken out in public.  They are protesting at proposals to make it easier to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate, mainly by demedicalising transition, if someone declares that they will live for the rest of their lives in the gender they identify with. This is already being done in a number of countries.  It will of course mean that there will be transmen and women who have not undergone any surgery and possibly not even taking hormones. The protesters say that this change will “blur the distinction” between themselves i.e. those who have gone through gender confirmation surgery (they have vaginas), and others who have not.  Actually at the moment there is no distinction because the current act only asks for an intention to go through with surgery when the time is right. For many transpeople the time is never right for health or other reasons.

These transwomen are setting themselves apart from other transgender and non-binary people. They want to be considered as “real” women and so wish to cut themselves off from other trans/non-binary people who they see as “damaging our credibility”. They are asking the politicians who will have to vote on changes to the act to “show courage”, presumably to resist the overwhelming numbers of transgender/non-binary people who are lobbying for the right to be women (or men). No, we’re not.

Since the GRA become law in 2004 under 10,000 people have obtained certificates while the total number of transgender people in the UK is a half to three-quarters of a million.  The GRA is obviously not working.  Also the Equality Act of 2010 only recognises those with a GRC (or applying for one) as a protected minority with all sorts of safeguards against hate-crime etc. Not all of us want to transition; there are many non-binary/gender-fluid people who just want the freedom (and protection) to be themselves. Unfortunately this group of transwomen want to retain stereotypical gender roles so that they can blend in as women. But they will never be accepted by the “women have babies” faction.

It is all very disappointing and worrying.  The more infighting there is, the more prejudice is allowed to bubble to the surface so that even comedians like Peter Kay (Carshare Unscripted) can use the beating up of a trans person as grist for a joke.

…………………………..

Now for something completely different, as they used to say. Here’s the next episode of Benefactors. Here you will easily detect two influences on the story (if you know your 1960s SF) which made me ultimately decide that it wasn’t original enough. What do you think?

Benefactors: Part 5

Chapter 5

Helen met Darmaan by the lake that formed the centrepiece of the campus. It was a hot summer day and Helen was sweating. She wondered how her father’s family survived the heat of summer on the Indian sub-continent.
‘They’ve deleted the lot,’ Helen said, ‘and threatened me with a memory wipe if I make a fuss. I’m not risking that. Who knows what else I might lose if they start zapping my brain.’
Darmaan held her shoulders trying to calm her. ‘It won’t come to that.’
‘Won’t it? You’ve seen what was in that genome. They know how excited people will get if people learn what’s in the code.’
‘And we’ve got to make sure that that is just what happens,’ Darmaan said staring into her face.
‘I’m scared Darmaan. We’ve got lawyers threatening us and the government hacking our comslink.’
‘Which only shows how important that data is. Think about it Helen. You said that the genome is about two-hundred-thousand years old and only found in one spot in the Rift Valley where it’s been tended for generations by a local tribe. Yet it contains ideas and data beyond my knowledge and I suspect beyond any scientist on Earth today.’
‘You’ve found out more?’
‘Yes. I did a comparison search with the equations in the genome and what’s on the Net. I got some very strange matches with theories on the edge of quantum and cosmological physics. I saw hints of ideas that I can only describe as science fiction. And there’s that whole section of DNA that isn’t but is something similar. I think it is an organism but one like nothing that exists on Earth now or ever.’
‘But how. . .?’ Helen was scared of the answer as she knew it would tear her sense of being a rational scientist apart.
‘Aliens,’ Darmaan said in a whisper, ‘It’s got to be. They came here millennia ago and left a gift for us.’
‘But modern humans were just evolving then.’
‘Yes, right where those trees got planted. My parents came from Somalia when they were children. They thought of themselves as coming from an ancient people but the Rift Valley is where humans became human. You know what Fraser told you about those leaves. They make people more cooperative. Wouldn’t that have been a useful trick for those primitive people.’
Helen considered, ‘It’s too incredible.’
‘Is it?’
‘Whatever. It’s too important to let this Company whoever they are and the government turn it into a secret. We’ve got to do something.’ Then Helen remembered, ‘But it’s all gone, your copy too.’
Darmaan smiled and leaned to whisper into her ear. ‘Not quite. They wiped my Net files. They thought people like you and me would only keep data uploaded via our net storage.’
‘I do.’
‘Well, it’s not only old guys like Fraser who keep personal memory backups.’
Helen’s eyes widened. ‘You’ve got a button?’
Darmaan grinned and tapped his pocket, ‘A few here and there. It’s not all lost.’
Helen grabbed his arm and started to walk around the lake. ‘They could be watching us now. What are we going to do, Darmaan?’
‘We’ve got to get this out to some physicists, chemists and synthetic biologists who would know what it means. You move in the upper reaches of science, Helen. Surely you know a few Nobel Prize winners.’
‘Hmm. I’m not sure they’re the best – but their postdocs may be. The more we can spread it the more protection we’ll get.’
‘You get me the list. I’ll get copying.’
‘How? As soon as you logon the hackers will be on to you.’
Darmaan grinned again. ‘I’ve been waiting for something like this to happen for ages. I’ve got a scroll which I disconnected from the net and a few more buttons. I can make copies and get them couriered to the people you name.’
‘Hmm, well, let’s split and meet first thing in the morning.’

Helen tried to act naturally on her journey home but in actual fact she was anxiously looking for people watching and tailing her. It was a long time since she had felt that she stood out as a woman with an Asian appearance but now she was worried that everyone was looking at her. She didn’t pick out anyone though. She got home, made some supper, tried to read a book. Finally, she unrolled her scroll and put in a call to Jock Fraser. The screen announced that it was “searching” for some time until a fuzzy picture appeared with Jock’s weather beaten face in the centre. There was darkness behind him and he appeared to be out in the open.
‘Hello, Professor,’ Jock’s voice was somewhat distorted.
‘Where are you, Jock? It’s a very poor signal.’
‘I’m in the Rift Valley. The nearest Stratonet balloon is probably a long way from here. But I can hear and see you.’
‘You went back.’
‘Yes. I wanted to see the trees again. I hoped the People would let me take more samples. But . . .’ His voice broke up and Helen felt that it wasn’t due to interference or a weak signal.
‘What’s happened, Jock.’
‘The People have been killed and the trees destroyed.’
Helen sucked in her breath, ‘All of them?’
‘Nearly. There may be one tree left.’
‘What happened?’
‘The government did a deal with the Chinese mining companies. There are rare earth metals in these hills. They didn’t realise the value of the Trees.’
‘Are you sure. I think your Company and our government have. They’ve confiscated your data and wiped my files.’
‘What? Did you find anything in the genome?’
‘Yes, Jock. It’s remarkable, there’s . . .’
‘Don’t tell me. We mustn’t talk like this. They’ll be listening.’ The connection broke.

The following morning, well before her usual time for starting work, Helen was strolling through the park next to the university campus. It was definitely not her normal routine and she felt exhausted. Sleep had not come for thinking about what Jock had said and the warnings from the company lawyer and anti-terrorism officer.
A figure jogged towards her. It was Darmaan. He stopped when he reached her barely showing a sweat.
‘This isn’t where I usually train,’ he said, ‘Running is in my genes.’ He grinned.
‘I’ve got the addresses of some people who may help us,’ Helen said, ‘Have you made the copies of the decoded genome.’
‘I left them hidden away in my flat,’ Darmaan said, ‘I didn’t want to carry them.’
Helen held out a folded sheet of paper. ‘Here you are, then.’
‘I’ll take that thank you.’
Helen turned to see the tall anti-terrorist operative. There were two other men beside him wearing helmets that covered their faces. They carried weapons. Darmaan grabbed the paper from Helen’s hand, turned and ran. One of the helmeted men raised his arm and aimed the gun. It fired with a soft “pfft” and Darmaan fell, convulsing.
Helen gasped. ‘You haven’t . . .’
‘Just a knockout pellet,’ the man said, ‘You’ll get the same if you resist arrest.’
‘Arrest?’
‘For conspiracy to assist a person with terrorist associations.’
Helen felt an unusual anger, ‘If you are referring to Jock Fraser again, he’s not a terrorist. He’s told me what’s happened to the people who tended the trees. They were just defending their homes. They didn’t hurt anyone.’
‘I do not know what you are referring to, Professor. I am commanded to arrest you and Dr Adams. Please come with me.’ He took Helen’s arm and marched her towards the park exit. His two subordinates pocketed their weapons, picked up Darmaan and followed. A van with dark windows waited at the gates.

………………………….to be continued.

 

Jasmine: a collection

Trained By Murder: A Jasmine Frame Collection – the new e-book containing four Jasmine Frame stories is now available on Kindle.  More below.

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The scary-index has ratchetted up another notch or three, thanks the to the Russians bumping off one of their many traitors and paying no heed to the risk of contaminating the population of Salisbury with their nerve gas. The story reads like a Le Carre novel without the subtlety, but the consequences are worrying. It’s further proof of Putin’s fear of the world and need to be popular amongst his people, not that he needs their approval to win his forthcoming election. It’s also proof of a growing instability in the world with egotistical madmen (however you want to define mad) in power in the three (perhaps more) largest and most powerful countries of the world.

Any response to Russia will probably be ineffectual but dangerous. One can but hope that sense still holds some sway in the those endless corridors in which power is supposed to reside and that no-one gets trigger-happy.  For all of my life we have feared a nuclear war which would probably have been over pretty quick with just the few left to suffer the aftermath. But is that the worst scenario? Surely the type of war on civilians we have seen in Syria and Yemen and elsewhere is worse.

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Tea in Debenhams

I am thankful that in my lifetime I have never been asked to put my own life on the line in wartime as our parents’ generation were. I don’t know how I would react. I feel cowardly in the face of physical violence with or without weapons (unless it’s brandishing a foil in a fencing match – but that’s friendly competition). I want peace but I can see that sometimes pacifism is not a viable option.  I have just spent a short while studying the double Nobel Prize winning chemist, Fred Sanger who was a Quaker and conscientious objector in WW2. While I respect Sanger’s ideals, I don’t think that, in circumstances like those of 1939-40, refusing to defend one’s home is justified. A day away from being officially a Senior Citizen, or OAP if you like, I hope I will never have to face that dilemma but unfortunately I can see growing numbers of people around the world will, as a result of the increasing instability, shortage of resources and climate change.

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trained by murder ver3Yes, it’s hereTrained By Murder is now available as a Kindle e-book priced at £2.15 (and the equivalent in other currencies.).

Trained by Murder is a set of four stories that fit into a short period, between Murder in Doubt and Painted Ladies, when James joined the Police service, and married Angela. While outwardly living his life as James he spends much of his off-duty time as Jasmine and is struggling to understand where his gender identity lies. The four stories average 13,000 words in length.

In Pushed to Murder, while working as a barman, a jog along the Rover Kennet in Reading brings James some disturbing news and a problem.

Death on a Honeymoon tells the story of James’ and Angela’s not so idyllic nuptial break on Ibiza where he meets a particular Spanish detective.

Vengeance is Murder finds Jasmine enjoying a weekend break in London with Angela that provides a dilemma that will stay with her for the rest of her life.

Death in Self-defence sees James on response duty in Abingdon, trying to get justice while hiding her double identity.

A pdf version of Trained By Murder is available from me, price £2.  Order it by sending an email here.

A paperback version will be available from Amazon soon.

The next full length novel, Molly’s Boudoir is on its way.

And finally, here is the next episode of Pose, another Painted Ladies prequel

Pose: Part 9

Jasmine took a small torch from her shoulder bag and took a look around. It was little bigger than a domestic garage but had a ramp and inspection pit. There was a work bench at the back with what appeared to be a door to another room behind. Apart from bits of car and cans of oil and other liquids there was nothing else to see. Jasmine moved towards the back of the garage. She pushed the door. It opened onto a narrow storeroom. Jasmine shone the torch around. She gasped. There was a glimpse of red satin. She stepped inside for a better view.
It was Tina in her princess dress sprawled on the floor amongst the cans and cardboard boxes. Jasmine knelt, reaching out a hand to feel a pulse. There wasn’t one but there was a sticky mess at the back of her head.
Jasmine backed out of the cupboard and hurried back through the garage. She stepped outside and pulled the door down. Angela approached her.
‘Did you find anything?’
Jasmine took her arm and dragged her back to the Fiesta. ‘Yes. Tina.’
‘Why didn’t she come. . .’ Angela’s mouth dropped open. ‘She’s dead?’
‘Yes.’ Jasmine unlocked the car door, got in and urged Angela to join her.
‘What are we going to do?’ Angela asked her face pale in the moonlight.
‘I don’t know. If we call the police we’ll have to identify ourselves and explain what we’re doing here.’
‘But you can’t leave Tina in there.’
‘She’s dead, Angela. We can’t do anything for her.’
‘We can. We can see that she gets a proper burial or whatever. What about her wife and daughter? What’s Jed going to do with her?’
Jasmine shook her head. She felt lost. She hadn’t been close to Tina but the shock of finding someone she knew battered to death along with her dilemma of not wanting to be identified seemed to have frozen her mind.
Lights appeared from the lane. An old Land Rover drove passed where they were parked, turned through 180 degrees and backed up to the garage door. A man got out.
‘It must be Jed,’ Angela said.
The man opened the garage doors, went back to his car and reversed inside. The doors closed.
‘What’s he doing?’ Angela asked.
‘Well, it could be he’s doing some car mechanics or perhaps he’s getting rid of Tina’s body.’
‘What should we do?’
‘Wait and see.’

A half an hour of sitting in the dark, cooling car, afraid to speak to each other and mulling over the problem passed. The garage doors opened. The Land Rover drove out and stopped. The driver got out, closed the door, returned to the car and drove off. Jasmine started the Fiesta’s engine and followed at a discreet distance.
‘Can you read his registration number?’ Jasmine asked. ‘If we lose him we need to be able to report what vehicle he’s driving.’
‘No, it’s too dark and I think the number-plate is covered in muck.’
‘Damn. We’ll just have to make sure we don’t lose him.’
For a while they travelled south on the main road out of the town. Before they reached the motorway, the Land Rover turned off onto an industrial estate and then onto a narrow lane. Jasmine slowed, letting the distance between them increase. It would be easy for Jed to see he was being followed if they were too close behind on the country road. The road took some wide curves, but they were usually able to see the rear lights of the Land Rover in the distance.
Then the lights disappeared. Jasmine drove slowly and came to the point where an even narrower side road branched off. There was a large building set back from the road.
‘He must have turned up here,’ Jasmine said spinning the steering wheel. She turned the headlights off and drove tentatively along the lane.
‘There he is,’ Angela cried. The dark angular bulk of the Land River against the almost leafless upward reaching branches of the trees was just visible about a hundred yards ahead. They stopped.
‘Call the police and tell them someone in a Land Rover is acting suspiciously,’ Jasmine said, opening her door.
‘But I don’t know where we are?’ Angela said as she dug her mobile phone from her bag.
‘Take the car and see what that building on the corner was. That should be a landmark.’
‘OK,’ Angela got out and ran around to the driver’s side
‘Oh, and don’t give your name.’
‘No, right.’
Angela reversed slowly back the way they had come, veering from side to side of the narrow, dark road. Jasmine crept forward. She kept to the side of the road almost hidden by the hedges and shrubs that lined the road. Closer to the Land Rover she could see that the tail-gate was open but there was no sign of Jed. She stopped, hearing her breathing and the rustle of movement in the undergrowth at the side of the road.
Jasmine pushed through the bushes and, with her eyes adjusted to the darkness, saw a figure moving through the bracken ahead of her. He was weighed down by a heavy bundle carried over his shoulders. Ahead of him there was a shimmer of light on water, part of the large system of lakes in flooded gravel workings.
Jasmine crouched down and tried to move forward, half crawling, half walking. She knew her tights would be ruined. She moved slowly but Jed, with his burden was making slow progress too. Nevertheless, he didn’t go directly to the bank of the lake. He kept to the narrow strip of land that divided the workings into separate bodies of water.
She was close enough now to hear him panting, using the bracken and small shrubs to keep herself hidden. He moved towards the water and let the body slip from his shoulder to the ground. Jed straightened up and seemed to be regaining his breath.
Jasmine wondered if Angela had made contact with the Police and had been able to give their location. Would they respond or just consider it a minor incident? Fly-tipping perhaps. If she allowed Jed to dump Tina’s body in the water and get away the police wouldn’t know where to look unless Jasmine guided them. But she couldn’t do that. She had to delay Jed somehow.
Jed bent down and began to drag the body towards the water’s edge. Jasmine edged forward. She was only a couple of metres from him now but he was intent on his task.
She screamed and launched herself at him. She hit him like a battering ram, tumbling him. He grunted. Jasmine fell in a heap but was quickly picking herself up. Where was he?
Jed was rising to his feet, looking around, startled by her attack. Jasmine threw herself at him again rugby-tackling his legs. They fell together. Jed kicked out, connecting with one of Jasmine’s false boobs. She rolled away and got to her feet. Jed was getting to his knees. Jasmine aimed the toe of her boot at his head. There was a thud as her kick hit home. Jed collapsed.
Jasmine stood up, breathing hard. She heard sirens. Blue lights were moving along the lane. She couldn’t stop here any longer. The police would find the Land Rover and start searching. She hoped Jed would stay put for long enough. She had to get away. Was the strip of land they were on a peninsular or an isthmus? There was only one way to find out. She moved on, away from the flashing lights, through the rough bracken with water on both sides.
It seemed an age but was probably only a few minutes when some buildings loomed against the sky ahead of her. She stumbled from the undergrowth onto a small parking area occupied by a couple of cars. Then she was on a made-up road again. She staggered along it, trying to jog but feeling bruised and cut by thorns and brambles.
She reached a junction with a slightly wider road. Which way should she go? How was she going to get home? The flat was miles away. She was out in the country. She must look a complete mess. Jasmine started walking, slowly, uncertainly, warily.
Lights came towards her. A car. She stepped to the side into the bushes. Perhaps she hadn’t been seen. The car drew level and stopped. The window wound down.
‘Jas?’
‘Angela?’ Jasmine’s heart beat faster with surprise and joy.
‘Get in, quick.’
Jasmine ran around the Fiesta and got into the passenger seat. Angela drove off.
‘How did you find me?’ Jasmine asked as she buckled herself in.
‘I didn’t.’ Angela stared ahead into the darkness. ‘After I rang the police I had to get away so I drove on along the road. But then I thought, how on earth are you going to get home? So I’ve driven up and down this bit of road a few times, wondering where you might be.’
‘The police. . .?’
‘I kept away from them. I could see their lights coming from the other direction.’
‘We need to get far away now, Ange. They’ll be piling in once they find Jed and Tina.’
‘Will they find them?’
‘There’s a good chance.’ Jasmine described what had happened as they drove along the country road back towards the lights of the town.

……………………………to be continued.

Jasmine worried

WP_20180223_21_21_14_ProI don’t usually follow the Oscars but this year I am interested to see which film wins the non-English language category.  One of the contenders is A Fantastic Woman. I was able to see it last week, before it went on general release in the UK, as part of the Borderlines Film Festival (this covers Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire and is the largest rural film festival in the country).

The reason for my interest is, of course, that the film is about a transgender character acted by a transwoman. The film is written and directed by Sebastian Lelio.  When planning the story of Marina Vidal he consulted Daniela Vega, a transwoman who is a singer and had done some film work. Lelio soon realised that Vega was the perfect person to play the part of Marina.

A Fantastic Woman is a love story, a tale of loss and an exploration of the treatment of transgender people in Chile. Once Marina appears, the camera rarely leaves her and we get a deep insight into her life and feelings. Unlike many stories concerning trans people, Marina is not searching for her identity, or trying to come to terms with being trans. She isn’t struggling to make a living on the edge of society. Marina is secure in her identity, has a job as a waitress and as a professional singer, and has a loving relationship with an older man – at the start of the film anyway. When things go wrong, as they inevitably do, we discover how society treats people like Marina. I don’t suppose Santiago, Chile is a lot different to many other places. It is chilling the way police, hospital workers, and the family of her lover speak to her with calm platitudes and apologies which cover up a deep prejudice and negation of any rights she might have as a human being. The word “sorry” has rarely sounded so much like a threat. There is a bit of traditional transphobic violence but for the most part Marina has to face rejection and discrimination. Not giving too much away – she comes through it.

Daniela Vega plays the part of Marina superbly. It is surprising and disappointing that though the film is up for an Oscar, Vega isn’t. Vega has said that she doesn’t mind that cis-people have played trans parts in many past films and TV shows (Transamerica and Transparent for two) as acting is acting, but her performance shows why a trans-actor fits the role of Marina far better than a cis-man or cis-woman could. Daniela is a beautiful woman but certain features such as her broad shoulders and strong chin betray her birth gender.  As Marina, she often does not wear a bra and does not use false breasts to enhance her partially developed bust. This means that in a crucial scene she can be taken for a man even while topless. It is hinted, though never categorically stated, that Marina (and Vega herself) has not (yet) had gender-confirmation surgery. Being “pre-op” might make a trans-woman lack confidence, but this doesn’t seem to be the case in Marina’s or Daniela’s case. Daniela is also a superb mezzo-soprano classical and jazz/modern singer.

A Fantastic Woman is a lovely, moving film. Daniela Vega is a true star and beacon for all transgender people, particularly those whose gender identities perhaps lie between the male and female extremes.

And so to Jasmine Frame.  Next week there will be news of the publication of  Trained By Murder, but here is the next episode of Pose, a prequel to Painted Ladies.

 

Pose: Part 7

James squeezed into the IT room. Colin turned his head and glared at him.
‘About time. Where did you get to?’
James recited his excuse. ‘Uh, I thought if I went to where the van had been found I might pick up some information to help us.’
Colin scowled. ‘That’s an investigating officer’s job. Any data they want us to look at will be sent here. No need to go gallivanting off. I’m late going off shift thanks to your wandering.’ He hauled himself out of his seat.’
James apologised and squashed himself against the wall so that Colin could pass him on his way out. Technically DC Colin Green was his senior officer in the CPUEES, not that Colin usually exerted his authority. He sat down in the vacated chair still warm from Colin’s buttocks. He logged himself into the computer and accessed the files accumulating for the case of the murder of Avril Robinson.
Baz paused her key tapping. ‘What’s up Jim?’
‘Er?’ James replied as he found the link to the data on Tina’s van.
‘Why did you dash off like that? Colin’s right, any info will land up here as quick as a pizza delivery.’
James tried to think of a reason that would be convincing. Perhaps the truth, if not the whole truth, would be required.
‘I thought I recognised the description of the van.’
‘Oh, where from?’
‘Someone I know said a friend of theirs had one like it.’
‘Oh.’
James thought that Baz didn’t sound convinced.
‘Was it?’ she asked.
‘What?’ he said trying to look as though he was concentrating on the screen.
‘The friend of your friend’s van?’
‘Um, yes, I think so. Must have got nicked by kids who dumped it and set it on fire.’
‘Perhaps, but Crowley is putting a lot of resources into it. It’s pretty close to where the girl was found and it’s the only clue that’s turned up so far, other than her phone.’
‘Yes, I guess so.’ The DVLA record of the van had appeared on James’ screen along with data on Terry North. He’d picked up a few points on his driving licence but didn’t have any other criminal record.
‘I’ve got a message to look for the movements of the van on CCTV,’ Baz said. ‘Can you help, Jim.’
‘OK.’

By the end of his shift, James was getting worried. They had not found any footage showing Terry’s van, but they had been provided with Terry’s mobile phone number. Emma North had been interviewed by police officers and had provided information about Terry, including the address he was supposed to be living at. James had read the reports as they came in. Emma hadn’t mentioned Terry’s crossdressing, but officers had paid a visit to the shared house and talked to the Romanians. DI Crowley’s team now knew that Terry had been missing for a couple of days. The search was on.
James was feeling despondent when he reached home. He found Angela curled up on their saggy sofa watching TV. They greeted each other, kissed and then Angela asked him about his day.
‘There’s still no sign of Tina?’ Angela asked when he had finished.
‘No, but Crowley is getting excited by the thought that he’s on the trail of Avril Robinson’s killer.’
‘He thinks Terry/Tina did it?’
‘Maybe. Terry’s a “person of interest”.’
‘Do you think he did it?’
James wasn’t sure of his answer. ‘I can’t believe that Tina would do that to a young girl, but sometimes people you know are capable of things you find incredible.’
Angela frowned. ‘Does it matter that you’ve met Tina? You don’t know Terry.’
James shrugged and shook his head. ‘If Crowley finds out that there’s a link between me and Terry because we met at Butterflies, I’m not sure what will happen. If it gets out that I’m Jasmine, well . . .’ Being exposed as a cross-dresser was James’ biggest dread. It came above his fear of knives.
‘But meeting Tina at Butterflies has got nothing to do with the murder of this girl,’ Angela said trying to soothe him.
‘At this stage of an investigation, any bit of information could be important. That’s what detectives do, they collect every possible fact they can and then work out which are relevant. They found Tina’s clothes at that dump of a place Terry was living at. Crowley will be wondering what they mean, and I bet he’ll jump to the same conclusion as Emma North’s friend – transvestite equals paedophile.’
‘Really? Are you sure?’
James felt sick. ‘You know what little most people know about being trans. With a murdered child on his mind, Crowley is going to see those princess dresses of Tina’s and the lights are going to start flashing.’
‘Suppose you’re right,’ Angela hugged him close to her.
‘There’s another thing,’ James said, ‘The Romanians may have told the officers that Sam and I were looking for Tina. Crowley will wonder who we are and why we were looking for Tina.’
‘Did you tell the Romanians who you were?’
‘No, but the woman, Christina, knew that we were trans like Tina.’
‘There’s no way DI Crowley can link Jasmine to you then,’ Angela said.
‘I hope not,’ James said, not totally convinced.

He was at the station early the following morning. Colin arrived to find James waiting to get started.
‘You’re keen this morning,’ Colin mumbled. He sat down at his screen and pulled a chocolate bar from his pocket.
‘This case is important,’ James said, sitting beside him
‘You mean the Robinson murder. It’s just one case. There’s lots of others.’ He chewed while his computer was booting up
‘Yes, but you know what I mean.’
‘Well, at least it’s getting somewhere. Look we’ve got the phone record for this Terrence North guy.’
A knot of apprehension formed in James’ stomach. He looked at his own screen. Yes, there they were – a list of all the calls made on Terry’s mobile.
‘I’ll go through them,’ James said.
‘Okay,’ Collin agreed, ‘I’ll see what other evidence has come in.’
James searched through the phone data. The first thing he noticed was that Terry/Tina had not answered or made any calls since Saturday afternoon. There were several callers including a number that James recognised as being Samantha’s. He bit his lip. That was one step closer to linking him with Tina.
James soon had a list of the people who had tried to contact Terry since Saturday. Apart from Samantha, there was his wife Emma and someone who Terry was supposed to be doing some work for. He could find no calls that related to Avril Robinson or her family. That didn’t mean much, James reflected. They already knew that the calls the girl had made had been to a pay-as-you-go number. If Terry was the paedophile he wouldn’t have used his usual phone to groom the kid.
It was late morning when Colin let out a grunt.
‘What’s that?’ James said.
‘Forensics have got a match for the blood found in that van,’ Colin said.
James’ heart raced. ‘Who for?’
‘The dead girl, Avril Robinson.’
A wave of cold passed through James body. ‘Are they sure?’
‘As good as. Not a DNA match yet. That’s on its way. But still, it looks like the girl was in the van anyway, doesn’t it?’
‘I suppose so.’ Now the hunt for Terry would intensify, James thought, and Crowley would be wanting to speak to anyone who had any contact with him. He’d be sending someone to speak to Samantha. He pushed his chair back and stood up.
‘Just got to go to the loo,’ he said and hurried out of the room. He walked out of the rear entrance of the police station and took his phone from his pocket. He dialled Samantha’s number. It rang for a while.
‘Don’t go to voicemail,’ he muttered. At last, just when he’d almost given up hope, his call was answered.
‘Hi, Jasmine. What’s up. News about Tina?’
‘Samantha. Look, the police are looking for Tina. They’ve got your phone number so someone will be wanting to speak to you.’
‘Oh, why?’
‘Because you’ve tried to contact her.’
‘Right. OK. Why are the police looking? Do they think something has happened to her?’
James knew he shouldn’t give away facts to do with the case. ‘Yes, and if they find out you’re trans they may guess that you were one of the pair who called on the Romanians.’
‘They know about us?’
‘They know a pair of trannies visited the house where Tina was living. They don’t know it was you and me. Look, they mustn’t find out that I’m Jasmine.’
There was a brief silence. ‘Oh, I get it. You don’t want your mates in the police to find out you’re trans too.’
‘That’s right.’
‘OK. If they ask I’ll say I only know you as Jasmine. That’s the truth actually.’
‘Thanks. Look, I’ve got to go. Good luck.’ He ended the call.
He wasn’t sure how interested Crowley and his team would be in Jasmine, but he reckoned the only way to ensure that he and Jasmine weren’t linked was to be the first to track down Terry or find the kidnapper of Avril who had used the van. Surely they weren’t the same person.

…………………………………to be continued

Jasmine explains

There’s been a chorus of pots calling out kettles this week. I’m referring to the scandal of the Oxfam aid workers exploiting local sex-workers in Haiti and elsewhere. It is disgusting that a small number of employees of the charity take advantage of vulnerable women (is it just women?) but the threats by government minsters to cut the charity’s grant from the foreign aid budget smacks of hypocrisy and opportunism on the part of those Tories who want to see foreign aid reduced. It is stupid to penalise the work of the charity because of the actions of a small number of people and the failure of the management to deal with them satisfactorily.

We have seen, not just in recent months, that sexual predators find opportunities in lots of professions and places of work, including the House of Commons.  No organisation should be complacent and the old methods of allowing, in particular, senior staff to resign and move on to other lucrative posts when their odious behaviour is found out, must stop. Sexist, misogynistic and sexually exploitive behaviour must be eliminated from all areas of society and men must learn to treat women (and other genders) equally and with respect.

……………………………

trained by murder ver3And now for the good news.  The publication of  Trained By Murder: A Jasmine Frame Collection is approaching and the cover by Scott Wood is now revealed.  The collection is made up four longish short stories set in 2004-2006 so still some years before the events of Painted Ladies.  Here’s a trial blurb:”

“James Frame is embarking on a career in the police force and sharing a life after university with Angela Madison. Jasmine makes a large contribution to his identity but he/she is unsure if the future lies with James or Jasmine. In Reading, Ibiza, London and Abingdon James’/Jasmine’s dual life collides with incidents of life and death that develop her skills as a detective. She is trained by murder.”

Trained By Murder will be available on Kindle.

Back to the current prequel.  Pose has reached the fifth episode and Jasmine has to do some explaining.

Pose: Part 5

Jasmine stopped the car outside the small terraced house that Samantha had indicated. She reached for the handle of her door.
‘I’m not coming,’ Samantha said.
Jasmine looked at her companion who seemed to be trying to make herself as small as possible. ‘Why not?’
‘She doesn’t like me.’
Jasmine chuckled. ‘Are you surprised? She would see you as encouraging her husband. You’re the one to blame for Terry’s behaviour.’
Samantha shrugged. ‘Yeah, I know that. You go and speak to her if you want to.’
‘OK. I think we need to find out if she’s seen Tina recently. What’s her name?’
‘Emma,’
‘And their surname?’
‘North. Good luck.’
‘Thanks.’ Jasmine opened her car door and stepped out. She walked up to the front door, noting that the garden was tidy and the front of the house at least, appeared looked after. She pressed the doorbell. The door was opened by a young woman in jeans and t-shirt. She looked at Jasmine blankly.
‘Mrs North?’ Jasmine asked.
‘Yeah. What d’you want?’
‘I’m a friend of your husband, Mrs North.’
She looked suspicious. ‘How d’you know Terry?’
Jasmine didn’t want to deceive the woman. ‘I don’t know Terry. I know him as Tina.’
The young woman’s nose wrinkled in disgust but then she examined Jasmine more closely.
‘You’re a woman not one of them pervs.’
Jasmine sighed. It was a pleasure to be taken for a woman, but this was one occasion when she had to admit to what she was and perhaps alter Tina’s wife’s misconceptions.
‘I’m transgender, Mrs North.’
She pushed the door closed. ‘I don’t want nuffin to do with you lot.’. Jasmine placed the sole of her boot in the way.
‘Please, Mrs North. We’re concerned about Terry.’
The door pressed against Jasmine’s foot.
‘Whass that mean?’
‘He’s gone missing from his address.’
Emma North shrugged. ‘I ain’t bovvered. Get your foot out of my door.’
‘Look I know you didn’t like how Terry dressed when he was Tina. . .’
‘It was disgustin’.’
‘And Terry was wrong not to discuss it with you.’
‘Nuffin to talk about. He was wrong in the ‘ead.’
Jasmine nodded. ‘I know, but he was the father of your daughter. You were happy together once.’
‘Once,’ she snorted, ‘Until he went bonkers. Doin’ hisself up like a kiddy.’
‘I can understand that it upset you, Mrs North.’
Her eyes were examining Jasmine, perhaps seeing her properly.
‘You look like a normal woman not like what Terry did.’
‘That’s what I want to be, Mrs North, a normal woman. Tina wanted to be something different.’
‘A pee-do-file, that’s what he wanted to be.’
Jasmine was astonished. ‘What do you mean, he wanted to be a paedophile?’
‘That’s what my mate, Sharon said he was when I said that Terry wanted to be a little girl. She said that’s called being a pee-do.’
‘Um, no, Emma, that’s not what a paedophile is. For some reason Terry liked dressing up like a teenage girl, or perhaps younger. I don’t know why. I don’t understand him either. But that doesn’t make him a paedophile.’
The woman looked confused.
‘Can I come inside so we can talk about it?’ Jasmine said gently, hoping that Emma North would accept her. The pressure of the door on Jasmine’s foot lessened.
‘I’m not sure. My girl’s inside.’
‘I understand. You don’t want your daughter confused.’
The door opened wider. ‘She’s watching telly. Come in the kitchen. Keep quiet.’ She let Jasmine step into the hallway, closed the door then guided her into the small kitchen.
‘I’ll see she’s happy,’ Emma said leaving Jasmine standing by the cooker. She returned a few moment later smiling. ‘She’s glued to a cartoon.’
Jasmine smiled, ‘Kids like a good cartoon don’t they. How old is your daughter?’
‘Five, nearly six.’
‘Terry loves her, doesn’t he?’ Emma nodded. ‘You’ve never been worried about leaving Terry with her, have you?’
The mother appeared to think the question odd. ‘No. He used to be a good dad. Played with her lots.’
‘But you asked him to leave because of his dressing.’
Her expression changed to anger. ‘I didn’t want Lucy seeing him looking weird.’
Jasmine nodded, ‘I understand. But that doesn’t make Terry a paedophile.’
‘No?’
‘A paedophile abuses children; touches them inappropriately, sexually; hurts them. Terry never did anything like that did he?’
Emma’s eyes widened in a look of horror. ‘No. I’d ‘ave killed him if he hurt my little girl.’
Jasmine said very slowly, ‘Right. Terry is a transvestite not a paedophile.’
Emma nodded slowly.
‘Now,’ Jasmine went on, ‘Did you tell anyone else that you thought Terry was a paedophile.’
The woman shook her head.
‘Did you tell Sharon where Terry was living?’
Emma nodded. ‘Yeah. I told her I didn’t like him bein’ so close. One day I saw him out in his gear. He looked a right wanker.’
Jasmine bit her lip. ‘You haven’t seen or heard from Terry in the last couple of days?’
Emma shook her head. She had turned pale. ‘Nuffin’s happened to him has it?’
‘I don’t know Emma,’ Jasmine tried to speak as neutrally as possible, ‘He hasn’t been seen since Friday evening after a group of people went to the house where he lives, shouted and threw a stone at his window.’
‘Eh?’
‘They called Terry a “Paedo”. They thought he’d abused your daughter and should be punished for it.’
‘Oh god!’
‘Perhaps Terry has just decided to go away from here. Somewhere where he’s safe. Has he got family somewhere?’
Emma shrugged. ‘They live up north but he never goes there. He fell out wiv ‘is Dad years ago.’
‘Is there anywhere else he might have gone?’
She shook her head.
‘Where does Sharon live?’
Emma pointed to the back of the house. ‘The street behind ‘ere. Number twelve. Why do you want to know?’
‘Someone told the people who attacked Terry’s digs where he was living and that he was thought to be a paedophile. Unless you can think of anyone else you talked to about it, it must have been Sharon.’
Emma looked thoughtful. ‘I ‘spect she told her bloke.’
‘Who’s that.’
‘Jed. He’s lived wiv ‘er for a couple of years. I dunno what Sharon sees in ‘im. He gets moods on ‘im.’
Jasmine had an impression of the man which she didn’t want to explore with Emma.
‘Ok, well thank you Mrs North. I’ll be off now. Thanks for speaking to me.’ Jasmine began to walk back to the front door.
Emma North followed her. ‘Look. If you find Terry, tell ‘im he’s not seeing Lucy unless he’s dressed proper.’
Jasmine smiled at her. ‘OK. I hope we find him.’ She let herself out of the door and hurried back to the car.
Samantha spoke as she got in. ‘She let you in then.’
‘Yes. We had a chat.’
‘What did she tell you?’
‘Her friend Sharon told her that Terry must be a paedophile because he likes dressing like a girl. Seems they didn’t understand what the word really means.’
‘So this friend started the rumour?’
‘It was her or her boyfriend.’
‘Did Emma have any idea where Tina’s gone?’
Jasmine shook her head. ‘No. She thought it was unlikely that he’s gone home and didn’t have any other suggestions.’
Samantha frowned. ‘If Tina’s frightened about staying in that house with the Romanians she could be sleeping rough.’
‘The nights are getting a bit chill for that. What does Terry do for a living? Perhaps he’s hanging around where he works.’
‘He’s a handyman; a bit of this a bit of that. He works all over the town. Gets round in a van.’
‘Would you recognise it?’
‘Yeah, Tina gave me a lift a few times. It’s an old LDV, red.’
Jasmine turned the key in the ignition. ‘Well, let’s have a drive round and see if we can find it. I think he’ll try to stay as close to home as possible to be near his daughter.’ She drove slowly down the street.

…………………….to be continued.

 

 

Jasmine troubled

It’s been another week when the news has been less than uplifting. Was the collapse of Carillion due to mismanagement or greed, or both? The fact is that many thousands of ordinary people are now not sure about their future while the rest of us may be faced with extra costs via taxes and lower savings interest rates because of government incompetence and arrogance.

WP_20180102_15_23_41_Pro

Tea in Debenhams

I mentioned last week the new ITV programme, Transformation Street.  I’ve now watched the first episode and can comment.  Like so many programmes focussing on transgender people, it delights in the gory details – pictures of excised breast tissue and testicles. I’m not sure what the point of doing that is, unless it is to justifiably emphasise that this is serious stuff. The programme is largely one long ad for a private gender clinic and its charismatic surgeon, who does all the surgery from facial feminisation through, breast enhancement and removal to the big ones – gender reassignment or confirmation as it is now called. As always, the individuals reveal how everyone has their own story, as do the partners and family of the transgender person. The gratitude shown by the patients as they recover from their surgery is striking.  I’d like to see them again many months after their operation. Many, probably most, are satisfied with their treatment but a few find that modifying their appearance doesn’t answer all their problems.  The programme did reveal the immense costs of going through the full transition particularly if one wants all the cosmetic treatment. Some will spend their entire life savings (and more) to get what they want. These costs also explain why the NHS struggles meet demand for gender identity treatment.  Is the programme of value? Well, it didn’t offer any judgements in the first episode but viewed as a source of information it performs a role. For surgery-porn junkies it probably hit the mark. For keeping trans in the public eye I’ll give it full marks, for anything else I’ll wait and see.

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I have at last begun a new Jasmine Frame story, called (for now) Pose. The first episode is below but I think it needs just a short introduction.  I know stories should be able to stand alone but as there are now so many Jasmine tales this one perhaps needs to be placed in context. Chronologically, it follows after the recently concluded story, Reflex, but takes place about one year later in, autumn 2007. This is the one period in Jasmine’s Painted Ladies front cover jpegcareer where there is a bit of a gap.  The prequels to Painted Ladies cover the years 2000, starting with Discovering Jasmine, and ending with Viewpoint (so far unpublished) set in December 2011 which concerns Jasmine’s last case in the police force.  Four of the stories which cover the period 2004 to 2006 will shortly be published in the collection provisionally titled, Jasmine Frame: Training for Murder. There are eight stories in the period 2009-2011 which may get published at a later date. So there is this gap, 2006-2009, where Jasmine is a police officer, married to Angela, but struggling with her identity. Pose deals with some serious issues – I hope you enjoy it.

Pose: Part 1

‘No, no, no!’ James pushed back on his chair and turned his face away from the computer display. Alongside him, DC Colin Green, glanced from his screen.
‘Bad one, eh?’
James shook his head, not in disagreement but trying to free his mind of the image. ‘Sick.’
Colin grunted and looked back at the images flicking past on his computer.
James thought and then declared, ‘No, not sick.’ Colin looked at him, eyebrows raised. ‘Sick implies that the guys looking at this stuff are ill, that it’s not their responsibility. They don’t have an illness, they’re evil. And I don’t mean they’re under the influence of the devil. They’ve made their very own hell for these kids.’
DC Green pushed his chair back. ‘Come on, Matey. I think you need a break. I could murder a bacon sarnie.’ He heaved his bulk off the office chair, which sighed gratefully. James stood too, and they squeezed past the desks, the tower of processors and the evidence bags of CD-ROMs, hard drives, memory sticks and floppy discs. James pushed the door open and emerged into the relative airiness of the corridor. The windowless office of the Child Protection Unit Electronic Evidence Section was little more than a cupboard hastily equipped with a couple of desks, keyboards, display units, processors and a variety of file readers.

James cradled the cup of black coffee in his hands and looked at DC Green munching into his ketchup dripping, bacon and egg sandwich. He wasn’t everyone’s image of the criminal-catching detective. He was overweight for a start, would barely pass the fitness test for an on-the-beat constable, and his unbuttoned shirt had obviously been nowhere near an iron. Yet he was dedicated. James knew that from observing him for the last four months and he looked to him for help in hacking into recalcitrant files and online accounts.
‘How do you cope with it?’ James asked.
Green took his eyes off the sandwich. ‘What?’
‘The disgust.’ Actually, it wasn’t just disgust he felt at the images they were duty-bound to examine. There was fear too. Fear of being drawn in by the overt sexual images. It hadn’t happened, but he was scared that one day he might find himself aroused by what he saw. The thought was appalling but he already felt that his penis had an existence all of its own, separate to the feminine persona that inhabited his skull. It was nonsense really. He knew that his cock and balls didn’t have a mind of their own despite that it sometimes appeared like it; but the fear remained.
Colin shrugged. ‘It’s a tough job that we do. You have to build a shell around yourself.’
‘A shell?’
‘Yeah. You can’t let anything you see or hear touch you. Just record it, label it, prepare it to be used as evidence. That’s our job.’
James nodded. Our job, yes, just another task for the twenty-first century police officer. He’d been delighted when he had been invited to join the Vulnerable Persons Department and assigned to the Child Protection Unit in Reading. It was his first experience of plainclothes work, his first post as a detective. Except that, ever since, he had spent most of his days in that claustrophobic, cramped closet, hunched over a computer. His apparent familiarity with a computer keyboard had indicated to his bosses that he would be a suitable recruit to the Electronic Evidence Section. He probably did have more experience with computers than officers that had joined straight from school or after some other career, and yes, he had owned a laptop since he was in the sixth form at school, but he wasn’t a computer geek like Colin, or Baz, his other EES colleague. Nevertheless, he was a fast learner and picked up the techniques of searching the internet and accessing files and digging through mobile phone records. He’d been aware of the easy availability of porn on the internet, who wasn’t, but just a few months in the job had shown him how the increasing sophistication of search engines and file sharing websites, the growth of social networks like MySpace and the rival Facebook, and the decreasing cost of mobile phones, made life easier for those who were drawn to the margins of sexual desire – the illegal, sickening and abusive gutters.
‘You’ll cope,’ Colin added. ‘You’re a natural.’
James didn’t feel as confident as Colin’s compliment suggested. He drank his coffee. Colin wiped the egg yolk from his plate with the last piece of bread, popped it in his mouth and chewed.
‘Better get back to it,’ he said through the mouthful, ‘The DI wanted the report on this lot today.’
James groaned at the thought of the hundreds of images still to be accessed, logged and classified, but he heaved himself to his feet. He noticed that Colin had a drip of ketchup on his collar.

…………………………

As soon as they arrived at the country village hall, Angela went to the hatch to collect a couple of drinks and chat to Susan. Jasmine looked around noting who was present at this month’s Butterflies meeting. Belinda, the President and organiser was chatting to a couple of older members. Jasmine had only managed to attend half a dozen times in the last year, but she recognised the regulars, and they were all regulars. There were no new faces, not tonight. She crossed the room to approach a couple of the girls. They were younger than the rest of the attendees, though still several years older than herself. She felt she had more in common with them. For a start they were in modern fashions rather than “classics”, or to be frank, what mother might have worn. Jasmine did have some doubts about Tina, however. She favoured a teenage, or even pre-teen, style. In public, she would look odd, weird even, but in the private, inclusive atmosphere of the Butterflies she was accepted, as she wanted to be.
As Jasmine approached Tina and her companion, Samantha, she examined this evening’s outfit. Being September, it was still warm enough for summertime wear. Tina wore a baby-doll dress in pale pink which just reached to mid-thigh and had short puffed sleeves. It was tied at the waist with a black ribbon. Through the semi-transparent cloth Jasmine could see suspenders holding up white stockings and a lacy bra. On her feet were white strappy sandals with high block heels. Her long blonde hair, which Jasmine knew was a good quality wig, was bedecked with little pink bows. She carried a handbag in the shape of a pink plastic teddy bear.
‘Hi, Jas,’ Tina greeted her in her artificially high-pitched sing-song voice. It grated on Jasmine for being so unnatural, but she had learnt it was part of Tina’s attempt to build a persona for herself as a young teen. It was make-believe. Jasmine knew that she was a mid-thirties electrician with a wife and a young daughter.
‘Hi,’ she replied and nodded to Tina and Samantha, ‘How are things?’
Samantha smiled at Jasmine. Her style was more adult – denim miniskirt over light blue leggings and a bright yellow t-shirt.
‘Tina’s got problems,’ Samantha confided.
‘Oh?’ Jasmine said.
Tina leaned into the group and spoke in a stage whisper. ‘My wife’s giving me hassle.’
‘About dressing?’ Jasmine asked.
‘Yeah.’
‘But she accepts that you do dress?’
Tina responded grumpily, ‘Tolerates, would be a better way of putting it although that seems to be wearing thin.’
‘Why?’ Jasmine wondered what was going on between Tina and her wife.
‘She won’t let me in the house dressed when Lucy’s awake.’
‘You had to get changed here did you?’ Jasmine asked. Some members arrived as men and did a transformation in the hall’s small Ladies loo.
‘No, I stopped in a layby and did a quick swap. I don’t know about going home. She might go crackers if I turn up at home like this.’
Jasmine inquired further, ‘Why is she less tolerant than she was?’
Tina shrugged. ‘She says that now that Lucy is nearly six and at school, she might get confused if she sees her father in a dress.’ Wearing clothes the girl might herself wear to a school-friend’s party, except for the suspenders and bra, she might be confused, Jasmine thought. ‘It might be partly what I spent on my new boobs,’ Tina added.
‘You need to talk,’ Samantha advised.
Tina looked rueful. ‘I think we’re passed that. She hasn’t spoken to me for days.’

………………………………. to be continued.

 

 

Jasmine in preparation

It’s been one of those weeks; a little bit of this a little bit of that, but I have made progress. The editing of the collection of Jasmine Frame stories is almost complete although I am still unsure about the title, Jasmine Frame: Training for Murder.  All the stories are from the period at the start of James/Jasmine’s police career. I am still thinking about better ideas.

20170930_130307I did have a bit of a down at one point with news that sales of my books are pretty slow. That could be my fault – I’m not doing enough to promote them – but I’m not sure what more there is to do on a limited budget. On the other hand I get an email asking for news of the next Jasmine Frame novel.  So I press on.

I note that the media obsession  with trans matters continues with a new series on ITV called Transformations.  It follows people undergoing transition.  I haven’t seen it yet but will comment more when I have. I’m about to do a few talks myself about being trans including the legal and medical aspects. The problem, or perhaps it isn’t a problem, is that everyone is different and that there are so many forms of transgenderism or gender fluidity.  It will be an interesting experience.

So with one thing and another I haven’t yet started the new Jasmine story. Next week?  As a substitute, here again is something I wrote earlier. It is also a piece I wrote for one of the writing groups I attend. I think the task was to write a letter of complaint. In fact I have added the reply too. It was an attempt at satire, not perfect which is why I have not bothered to find a home for it or sent it to any competitions but you can enjoy it or otherwise tear it to pieces.

The Devil’s Redundancy

Dear Lord and Master of All,
I am writing to complain about the redundancy notice I have been sent by your office. I would like to remind you of the contract I received when I accepted this posting outside Paradise. I draw your attention to the term ‘eternity’. Yes, I am appointed to run the underworld for eternity. Further my job description says I am to punish sinners for time without end. You can’t just rip up a contract like that just because you’re omnipotent, after what I’ve done for, what is it now, six thousand years.
You say the reason for my getting fired – that’s a good word isn’t it for the one who has been stoking the fires with a little help from my demons – is because I have been failing in my duty of tempting the good souls to whom you have given the Earth and all the living things within it. Well, I have some reasons for that.
First of all it is a question of numbers. Heaven may be infinite in size but the Earth isn’t, so there is only so much room in the underworld to accommodate all the sinners, allowing space for the punishments you insisted that I provide. The problem is that you let these humans proliferate so that I now have over seven billion of them to deal with at once, and that’s just the living. If you hadn’t made fornication so pleasurable for them I’m sure they wouldn’t breed so fast. So, with so many people to tempt it’s as much as I can do to get round each of them during their lifetimes as well as the time spent preparing new chambers of hell.
The second problem has been an energy crisis. When there are potentially so many candidates for burning there is a need to provide fuel. Now you designed the laws of thermodynamics so you know that when you use energy some always gets lost and heats up the surroundings. I’m afraid that’s been happening and the Earth has been warming up a bit. Well, with increasing numbers the temperature has been rising faster. I can’t keep hiding global warming behind their use of fossil fuels, which you kindly provided, for much longer.
Finally, the place has been filling up at a faster rate than I can manage without me tempting them to excess. I know you’ll say that is why I’m redundant. I’m not needed anymore to trick these folks into vices as they do it for themselves, but do you really expect this place to run by itself or are you expecting volunteers to step in and run your Big Purgatory.
You see you really shouldn’t have given them free will. It’s because of that they’ve found ways to sin that you, for all your omniscience, never thought of. For a start, why did you give them seven deadly sins to work at, when they’d have done well enough with two or three. The trouble started when you made gold not only a pretty metal but rare too. In the early days it was only a few of them who fell for the envy and greed thing as they built up their stocks of the stuff and then added the lust, gluttony and pride for good measure – people like old King Midas; he sends his regards by the way. Now they don’t need to actually own the metal to get into the vices. For a while they collected bits of paper but now figures in their fancy computers do the job very nicely. And then you went and gave a few of them ingenuity so that the rest can satisfy their basic desires while slumped in front of the TV, building up their sloth coefficient. They’ve even found new ways of encouraging vices with inventions such as internet porn, fast food and reality TV shows – which make me pretty wrathful, I can tell you.
I think that instead of putting me out to grass you should be getting round to that Armageddon thing you’ve been talking about for eons. Let’s give the whole place a re-boot and re-think the human race.

Yours faithfully,
Lucifer
P.S. Give my love to the kids.

………………….

My dear Lucifer,
Thank you for your letter. I do think it quaint that you still use such outmoded forms of communication. I find email so much more in keeping with my status of omniscience because, of course, it is never lost but always stored in the perambulations of electrons. I can access it anywhere in my universe thanks to the free dongle that came with my package.
I knew that being made redundant would upset you and I want you to know that I empathise with your feelings. I do want to thank you for all the efforts you have made to punish those creatures that I allowed to stray from the paths of righteousness. The truth is that I have decided on a little reorganisation up here.
When I created this place I decided on a multi-faceted presence which allowed my people to interpret my existence in a number of different ways. This produced effects that were not quite as predicted. Not of course that I am giving up my claim on infallibility, it is just that these people have followed a path that was not one of high probability. That was one of the results of allowing them a semblance of free-will. The problem is that instead of uniting in praise of me they have divided up into more and more denominations, each at each other’s throats, so that they have called into question my forgiving and all-embracing love. It has got so bad that a sizeable proportion have even given up believing in me. I am sure that you appreciate that that is not a good state of affairs for an all-powerful being.
Anyway to cut to the chase, as some of them say, I have decided on a universe-wide reorganisation programme. I am going to amalgamate the various divisions of paradise and terminate the various brand-names by which I have been known. It is time for a re-launch with a brand new face of God. So there will be, as you suggest, an Armageddon of sorts. However, it is such a fag having to re-build a whole universe and come up with all those little clues that suggest that everything has been around a lot longer than it actually has – do you know how long it took for me to come up with all the dinosaurs last time? Yes, I know time means nothing to me but someone has to think of these things. Anyway I’ve decided on a species-selective form of the final curtain and these humans I created gave me the idea themselves, isn’t that smart. They’ve already had a few goes themselves but this is going to be the grand-daddy of all economic collapses. I’ve hardly had to do anything at all really, just a few nudges of this corporation or that, a few insider dealings here or there. At the appointed moment their whole financial system will collapse and they’ll be back where they started, a bunch of stone wielding, hunters and gatherers ready to look around them and see me in everything.
I know what you are going to say – where does hell fit into all this? Well actually it doesn’t. I’ve decided on a rationalisation process that means that you and your dominion are surplus to requirements. It’s quite clever really in that I’m bringing punishments for sins back in house. They’ve brought it on themselves really. Once civilisation has gone there’ll be enough radioactive waste, nerve gases, incurable diseases to say nothing of environmental degradation brought on by their profligate use of all the resources I gave them, that there will be plenty of ways to make their existence miserable. And the good thing is that I won’t even have to provide for the pure and faultless souls because there aren’t any. Every last one of them has fallen for at least one of those seven vices you mention, plus a few extra ones that they invented for themselves.
So there we are Lucifer, old fellow. I’m sure you will get over your disappointment and will enjoy your retirement – for eternity, of course. I’ll make sure your needs are provided for, perhaps a little heritage-hell for old times’ sake and I am sure the new arrangements will keep you amused even as a spectator.

Yours truly,
The Almighty One

…………………………………………

Jasmine socialises

20170930_153501 (2)The news continues to be mind-chillingly awful but a number of items this week made me wonder what kind of life our children and young people are going to experience.  One was about the swarms of paedophiles who descend on any young girl (I think it’s particularly girls) who decide to post photos on certain social media apps. The reporter talked of girls receiving thousands of responses to any picture of themselves followed by requests to “show a bit more”. Are children learning to discriminate between genuine friendships and the creepy, wheedling, grooming by older men? I hope so but I’m not sure how.

The second item concerned “fake news”, previously known as lies. Not many young people sit down to watch the News at 6 or any other time and I doubt whether many use the newspaper apps on their smart phones. The only “news” they pick up are the posts on social media apps like Snapchat.  These share lies, gossip, conspiracy theories, and extremist propaganda tarted up as reasonable viewpoints which swamp the truth and informed opinions.  How do young people, or any of us for that matter, sort the truth from the lies? It is very difficult and I think we all fall for misplaced blaring indignation from time to time.

The point about both of these news items was that the internet providers and social media services are doing nothing to correct it. Google, Facebook, Instagram and all the others are turning over huge sums of money (largely from advertising), mutter about protecting people, but actually do very little. I think something will (must) happen in the not too distant future which will change the situation but not necessarily return us to a state of internet innocence.

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Let’s get back to contemplating the approaching festive season – there’s still plenty of time to purchase your copies of my Jasmine Frame  and September Weekes books, either on Kindle or as paperbacks (from paintedladiesnovel@btinternet.com).  And here is the next episode of the novella, Reflex, set in 2006 (before all that social media stuff really got started).  Jasmine is having an evening off. . .

Reflex: Part 7

Jasmine parked the Fiesta alongside a few other cars on the gravel beside the low brick building. It was the village hall but was some distance outside the village and surrounded only by trees and fields. A little light filtered through curtains but otherwise it was dark. She and Angela got out and approached the door. Jasmine found herself surprisingly apprehensive. She had been going out as Jasmine for years and had visited clubs on straight and LGBT nights with and without Angela many times. This, however, was her first time at a social meeting for transgendered people.
Angela pulled on the heavy door and a waft of slightly warmer air, a buzz of conversation and the music of the Beegees emerged. Jasmine wondered if there would be dancing. They stepped inside the hall. It was brightly lit with six tables set out around the edge. About a dozen people turned as one and looked at them. They all appeared to be women, although a couple were wearing trousers. A rather buxom lady with dark hair approached them. She wore a flowery dress.
‘Ah, you must be Angela and Jasmine. I’m Belinda,’ she said in a deep male voice, holding out her hand. Jasmine and Angela shook it in turn. ‘Come and meet everyone.’ Belinda ushered them towards the little groups of ladies. The conversation, that had stopped, picked up again.
In a whirl of name exchanging, Belinda introduced Jasmine and Angela to all the other members of the Butterflies Club. There were a pair of married couples but all the rest were single “ladies”; Jasmine was unsure who was a transsexual living full-time as a woman, or a transvestite spending the evening in their alternative femme persona. She thought though that she would be able to work it out after a few minutes observation and chat.
‘Now there’s one last person to meet,’ Belinda said, guiding them to the hatch in the middle of the side wall. There, smiling from behind a counter, was a small lady in an apron, cutting up portions of Tesco quiche. ‘This is Susan, my darling wife,’ Belinda announced.
Susan greeted them and was soon chatting to Angela about Butterflies, her life with Belinda and gossip about the other members. Belinda asked what Jasmine would like to drink. She opted for an orange juice while Angela accepted a large white wine. That means I’m driving home, Jasmine thought, but wasn’t too disappointed.
She went off to chat with the other Butterflies. Most appeared to be in late middle-age, with a taste in fashion that, except for one or two, may have been gleaned from their mothers. The exceptions favoured short dresses with stockings and high heels and shoulder-length hair. There were all sorts of professions represented from road hauliers to doctors with a sprinkling of telecoms engineers. There was one member who Jasmine found herself gravitating to. She appeared younger than the others and was dressed more like herself – a skirt over opaque tights with, in her case, a loose jumper on top. Also, her brown hair, cut in a bob, appeared to be her own. She had been introduced as Rachel. She admired Jasmine’s embellished and more fitted top. They were soon chatting about mundane matters and commenting on the other members’ tastes.
Soon food was served and the Butterflies descended on the buffet more like another species of insect. Rachel however took a small plate of food.
‘It’s the oestrogen,’ she said. ‘It makes me put on weight when I just glance at a currant bun.’
‘You’re transitioning,’ Jasmine said, then regretted blurting it out.
‘All done,’ Rachel said with obvious pride, ‘I had my surgery last year.’
‘I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have assumed. . .’
Rachel shook her head, ‘No, it’s OK. I don’t mind talking about it, and if you can’t here,’ she waved at the other ladies, ‘where can you talk about being trans.’
Jasmine nodded in agreement. ‘When did you start?’
‘Oh, years ago, in my twenties. It took ages to reach the top of the list.’
‘Did you always know you were a woman?’
‘As far back as I can remember. Although I didn’t know what transitioning would involve until I was in my late teens. It’s easy for kids today, with the internet to tell them all about trannies.’
‘You were dressing as a girl when you were a teenager?’
‘Oh, yes. Every opportunity I had.’
Jasmine nodded. She had done the same although she had never decided to transition.
‘Did your parents know?’
Rachel snorted. ‘Oh yes, they knew alright.’
‘And supported you?’
‘Ah, that’s more complicated. My mother did, my father didn’t. He couldn’t bear me looking like a girl. I think it offended his own masculinity.’
‘What happened?’
‘My parents divorced when I was fifteen.’
‘Did they blame it on you being trans?’
Rachel shrugged. ‘My father may have done but I haven’t seen him since. My mother has never mentioned it, but she’s always been on my side. If we were out together and someone had a go at me she would tear into them. Nearly got us into trouble with the cops a couple of times.’
‘Really, how?’
Rachel thought for a moment. ‘Once we were out shopping. A couple of lads barged into us and pushed me around a bit. My Mum launched into them whirling her handbag like an offensive weapon. There happened to be a cop nearby and he waded in to separate them.’
‘Mothers can be fierce at times,’ Jasmine said. Rachel asked about Jasmine’s experience and relationship with Angela.
They were putting the tables away when Jasmine realised that the evening had passed. Rachel said farewell and Jasmine was left with Angela, Belinda and a few of the other ladies finishing the washing-up. Belinda bent down to turn off the small CD player sitting on the stage then straightened up.
‘Well, that’s it until next month,’ she said. ‘I hope we see you again, Jasmine, Angela.’
‘Yes, I hope so,’ Jasmine replied, ‘but it can be difficult. I’m on shifts you see, and sometimes don’t get off when I should.’
‘Oh, what do you do?’ Susan asked while folding the tea-towels.
‘I’m a police officer,’ Jasmine replied then wondered whether it was wise to reveal her career, ‘Oh, please don’t spread that around.’
Belinda nodded. ‘Don’t worry, we won’t. All personal details are confidential in Butterflies. Actually, some of the girls are a bit wary of the police.’
‘Why?’ Jasmine asked.
‘They remember times when the police weren’t too supportive of trans girls.’
‘Not now, surely.’ Jasmine thought of the diversity training she had received.
‘No, I’m talking about the eighties and earlier. Some of us have been around that long,’ Belinda winked. ‘It wasn’t unknown for police to arrest men dressed as women, give them a beating and then put them in front of a magistrate for disturbing the peace.’
Jasmine shivered. ‘Things have changed.’
‘I know,’ Belinda smiled, ‘and the Gender Recognition Act has been a help to all of us.’
Jasmine and Angela said their goodbyes and left the hall. They were driving along the country lanes towards Reading and bed before Angela spoke.
‘Well, what do you think?’
‘About what?’
‘The Butterflies. Do you want to come again?’
‘Yes, I think so. Doesn’t have to be every month. It’s not the most exciting of evenings and most of them are pretty old.’
Angela laughed. ‘Yes, and look like men in drag.’
‘I think it’s difficult for some. Perhaps they don’t have someone like you to support them. They’re a bit out of date.’
‘Nevertheless, you found someone to talk to.’
‘Yes, Rachel. She’s a post-op.’
‘Really. Gave you ideas, did she?’
Jasmine took his eyes off the road to look at Angela. Her face was in the dark but he knew she was examining him closely.
‘Yes, well no. If you mean do I think I want to be like her, then no I don’t.’ She wanted to convince herself as much as Angela and wasn’t sure she had. ‘She took a long time to complete her transition and her parents divorced, probably because of it, but her mother was really supportive.’
‘Like your friend, Melissa’s mother.’
‘Hmm, yes,’ Jasmine thought about what Rachel had said and about Melissa. She realised that she was dressed almost the same as Melissa had been when they met earlier in the day. Had she copied the young girl’s style unconsciously this evening? The trans-girl was certainly on her mind.

……………………. to be continued

Jasmine takes sides

Last Sunday’s Observer newspaper was quite a bumper edition for transgender articles (hardly a week passes without something on the topic).  There was a full page profile of Grayson Perry and a full page article about the work of the Tavistock and Portman clinic which advises young people with gender issues and has seen a huge rise in demand for its services in recent years, particularly from girls transitioning to boys.

There was also an article by Catherine Bennett on bullying and the terms of abuse used by bullies.  It began with comments on the Daily Telegraph attack on the “Brexit Mutineers” with its front page pictures of all the Conservative MPs who rebelled against the government over Brexit.  Strangely though, the article segued into a discussion  of the bullying tactics used by transgender activists against women who do not see transwomen as women.  Bennett’s language in the article was very convoluted but I got the impression that she actually sides with the people who think that those who have transitioned according to the rules of the 2004 Gender Recognition Act (GRA) should not enjoy the rights of the gender they identify with.  She seems to think that the transgender lobby is the stronger and more successful at getting its way. The amount of publicity about transgender people these days may suggest that but I think she is wrong.

WP_20170824_11_55_17_ProI have to say that I disagree with the belligerence shown by some trans-activists.  I don’t agree with preventing someone speak on any subject, provided there is provision for the other side’s views to be given at the same event.  I also don’t agree with calling people names.  Bennett refers to the acronym TERF being used as a term of abuse.  It actually stands for Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist  i.e. those vocal feminists who do not embrace transwomen into their movement, such as Germaine Greer.  Is calling someone a “terf” or a “yuppie” a statement of fact or abuse?  Bennett seems to include trans anger at the views espoused by such women as being an example of the misogyny women experience in other areas of their lives. The suggestion that “transphobe” be used as a more readily understood term of abuse for these people is treated ironically.  Bennett makes a lot of the attacks by the trans-activists on those that speak against transgender and non-binary reforms but seems to ignore the reverse – the attacks on trans-people and the lack of rights for those that are gender-fluid or agender.

It is clear that the interaction between some trans-activists and some feminists has become violent and out of control. I think, however, that both sides have lost sight of the issue – that gender equality is still a long way off and that society has yet to understand that gender identity is not simply male or female with medical intervention for those who don’t fit.  In my imagined genderless utopia, all people have equal rights and opportunities and can adopt whatever personal style and appearance they wish. Those people who want to have babies and bring up children can do so with assistance from society (with the caveat that populations growth is discouraged). Nobody should impose their sexual desires on another without their consent and no person should be singled out for abusive “banter”.

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That’s all for now on that.  Let’s get on with the fiction.  Here’s part 5 of the Jasmine Frame novella, Reflex. Just a reminder that the events described in this story take place in 2006, not long after the passing of the GRA when police forces were still coming to terms with diversity in all its forms. It is a prequel to Painted Ladies (set six years later).

Reflex: Part 5

James followed DS Sharma into the staff rest room. The DS filled a kettle, switched it on then turned to glare at James.
‘Don’t ever correct me in an interview again, PC Frame.’
Again, James thought, there will be an again? He wanted that opportunity, although not necessarily with the detective. Nevertheless, he needed to mollify Sharma.
‘I’m sorry. It just came out. I think of Melissa as a girl.’
‘Do you think he looks like a girl?’
James thought of the young person slouched in the chair in the interview room, wearing jeans, sweat shirt and trainers. Although small and slight for a fourteen-year-old, with a long and thick head of hair, the lack of any hint of breasts presented a boyish figure.
‘Not particularly,’ he answered after a pause, ‘but it’s what’s in her head that matters. Melissa thinks she’s a girl.’
Sharma scowled, ‘But legally he’s a boy and that’s how he’ll be when he goes to court, so that is how we will address him. Got it?’
‘Yes, Sir.’ James wondered when or if he would have an opportunity to speak to Matthew/Melissa again. The DS dropped a teabag into a mug.
‘You seem to have been quite affected by this trans person you knew. Tamsin was it?’
‘Er, yes, Sir.’
‘The urge that these people have, it’s strong.’
‘Yes, Sir.’ James nodded.
‘Strong enough that it persisted even through the beatings his father meted out?’
‘Yes, Sir. Nothing makes the feeling that you’re in the wrong body go away.’ James felt that himself and empathised with Melissa’s wish to be female, but he had never experienced the abuse she had, nor had he felt so much pressure to transition. ‘Perhaps being isolated so that only her, sorry his, mother knew and supported him made the desire even stronger.’
‘Hmm.’ The kettle clicked off and Sharma turned to pour water over the teabag. ‘Strong enough to murder your father?’
James was shocked. When a police officer used the word “murder” it had a particular meaning.
‘I don’t think Matthew planned or intended to kill his father, Sir.’
‘Don’t you? You’ve told me how strong this need to be female is. He’s been denied it by his father for ten years. He’s growing up, going through puberty, as you said. We know what effect those hormones can have; all that testosterone churning around his body. Young bull, old bull. He decides to fight back. Keeps the knife handy for when his father returns.’
‘But he wasn’t expecting his father to come back when he did. Matthew said so.’
The DS shrugged. ‘So, what do you think happened, Frame?’ He hooked the teabag out of his mug and dropped in the sink.
‘I think it was an accident or self-defence, Sir. In the surprise of being attacked by his father Matthew just picked up whatever was to hand to defend himself. Unfortunately, it happened to be a knife which ended up in Mr Chapman’s chest.’
‘Through his heart, Frame. He was dead in moments.’
‘Yes, Sir, and we know that Matthew was very upset by that.’
Sharma took a sip of his tea. ‘So, it’s murder versus appropriate use of force in self-defence.’
‘His father was a lot bigger than him, Sir.’
Sharma ignored James’ comment. ‘To decide which it was we need evidence or a confession.’
James was confused. ‘What evidence, Sir? It happened in the heat of the moment.’
‘The knife, Frame. Why was it there just where the boy could grab it?’
‘It was the kitchen, Sir. Things get left lying around in kitchens, even knives.’
‘Did you look at that kitchen, Constable?’
James stared. Had he looked around the kitchen? He couldn’t recall anything of it at all except for the bloody body of the man on the floor and the sobbing mother.
‘Er, no, Sir.’
‘Spotless, it was, except for the blood of course. Nothing out of place. Apart from the brush, comb and hairdressing bits and pieces that Mrs Chapman had been using on the boy, the only thing not in a drawer or cupboard was that knife. Just that knife out of all the kitchen utensils happened to be on the worktop when the boy needed it. Don’t you think that is suspicious?’
James thought that Sharma was being a bit pernickety about the tidiness of the Chapman household.
‘Perhaps Mrs Chapman had been going to use it or put it away when Matthew interrupted her to have his hair styled.’
Sharma nodded. ‘A valid point, Frame. We’ll have to put it to Mrs Chapman when we question her.’
‘We, sir?’
‘Yes, you and me. You seem to have some empathy with her son, so she might open up to you. She’s waiting for us in the other interview room.’ He put the empty mug down. ‘Come on.’
Once again, James followed the DS along the corridor to another small, sparsely furnished room. Mrs Chapman sat alone at the table.
‘Good afternoon, Mrs Chapman. Thanks for coming in to see us. No, don’t get up.’
The woman sank back into the plastic chair. James looked at her, seeing her properly for the first time. With the dark eyes revealing loss of sleep she bore a close likeness to her son or daughter. Matthew/Melissa shared her build and facial characteristics.
‘When can I see. . .?’ she asked. Sharma and James sat down facing her.
‘Your son? Very soon, Mrs Chapman. I can understand your wish to see him. He is in the care of Children’s Services. I’m afraid you won’t be able to be alone with him as he is suspected of a serious offence.’
The woman opened her mouth in horror. ‘Serious offence? What do you mean?’
‘Your son killed your husband, Mrs Chapman.’ Sharma’s tone suggested that it was an everyday occurrence.
‘But that was an accident,’ the mother cried.
Sharma leaned forward. ‘He thrust the point of knife though his father’s chest and pierced his heart. Was that an accident?’
The woman sat with her mouth open. She closed it, shook her head. ‘But, it wasn’t meant. Eric was swinging his fists.’
‘Did you see what your husband was doing, Mrs Chapman? I understood that he had hit you to the floor.’
‘Yes, yes, that’s right, but I saw him hitting Melissa around the head, before she grabbed the knife.’
The DS sat back in his chair and stretched. ‘Ah, you said Melissa. So, you believe your child is a girl.’
Mrs Chapman was startled, surprised by the Detective Sergeant’s change of tone and topic. She mumbled.
Sharma cocked his head, ‘Sorry, Mrs Chapman. I missed what you said.’
The woman looked directly at him. ‘I’ve known she was really a girl since she was a toddler. As soon as she started to talk she insisted that she was a girl not a boy. I don’t know where she heard the name Melissa, but she couldn’t have been much older than four when she told me that was her name not Matthew.’
‘But your husband didn’t accept that did he?’
‘No, he couldn’t bear the idea that he had a daughter not a son.’
‘He used violence on you and your child?’
Mrs Chapman nodded, and James noticed tears form in her eyes and sobs vibrate her chest.
DS Sharma pointed to James. ‘PC Frame, here, apparently has experience with people like your son. Transsexuals. He has some questions for you.’
Do I, James asked himself. What questions? The woman looked at him with an appeal in her eyes.
‘Um, yes,’ he began, ‘As DS Sharma says, I knew a transgirl. She had transitioned when she left home after finishing school. Do you know that that is what Melissa wanted?’
The mother nodded. ‘Yes, we were just waiting for her to reach sixteen.’
James felt sympathy for the mother, but he knew he should ask some other questions. ‘The two or three years when a boy is going through puberty feels like a long time to them, an eternity in which they can see their bodies changing, making it more difficult to pass as a woman. How did it affect her?’
‘Melissa hated what was happening to her.’
‘Couldn’t you have got her help, despite her father?’
The woman froze. ‘I couldn’t do anything that Eric disapproved of. He wouldn’t let me take Melissa to the doctor.’
Sharma butted in. ‘You say you wouldn’t disobey your husband but time after time you helped your son make himself look like a girl – doing his hair and make-up. That was against Mr Chapman’s express wishes wasn’t it.’
The woman broke down into a sob. ‘I know, but Melissa so much wanted to look like a girl. I couldn’t refuse her.’
‘You encouraged him in his wish to be a girl,’ the DS accused.
Mrs Chapman looked confused. ‘Yes, but I had too.’
‘You encouraged him,’ Sharma continued, ‘until he so hated his father that he decided to kill him when the opportunity arose.’ Melissa’s mother shook her head violently. ‘He got the knife out of the kitchen drawer and kept it with him for when his father returned and predictably lost his temper because you were pandering to his girly urges. Your son planned to kill his father because he thought that was the only way he could become the girl her thought he was.’
’No, no,’ The woman cried, ‘She didn’t mean to kill him.’

…..to be continued.

Jasmine on the spot

There have been so many bits of news this week that have annoyed me and increased my anxiety about the world but they are political and I don’t want to fill this blog with my diatribes. Still, it is worrying times.

20170930_130251 (2)There was one thing that amused me.  I was out in the street and was approached by a fellow that I never expected to speak to me nor I to him. He told me that we need to “do our own thing” and “hold our heads high” and that he thought I was great for doing what I do. I realised that he was referring to my gender fluidity.  At the time he spoke, I was in typical male garb but I had seen him out and about when I was dressed in a skirt and boots. Since I gave up wearing a wig and merely have my hair done in a more feminine style, a little make up and change of clothes is not going to disguise me. It was proof that I am out as my bi-gendered self and pleasant to be complimented on it. Perhaps society isn’t going down the pan.

Anyway, to Jasmine.  The next episode of the prequel to Painted Ladies is below. In Reflex, Jasmine spends most of her time as James and is not sure what her/his future holds. It is interesting to be writing this novella length story at the same time as writing Molly’s Boudoir which takes place much later in Jasmine’s transition.  Don’t forget that the other two novels, Bodies By Design and The Brides’ Club Murder are available as e-books and paperbacks.

 

Reflex: Part 3

Daylight was still a few hours away when James slid into bed beside Angela. She stirred and murmured but he didn’t want to wake her up. He lay there, feeling her warmth, while thinking about his night’s shift, his first active service on a response team and he had had a murder. Or was it manslaughter. Surely, Matthew had not intended to kill his father. In fact, James wondered whether the boy, or girl, should be charged at all. Could it be proved that he was defending himself from the larger man? James wondered what trauma the young transgirl had been through in her life – discovering herself while meeting opposition from one of the people who should be protecting her.
He had drifted into a light sleep when Angela got up to start her day. He turned over.
‘Morning love,’ he muttered.
Angela was apologetic. ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you up. You must be knackered.’
‘Mmm.’
‘How did it go, your first night on patrol?’
James pushed himself up his pillow and told her the story of the night. She sat down beside him and wrapped her arms around him as he described finding Matthew/Melissa, her arrest and then taking her to the police station before being handed to the children’s services while the investigation proceeded.
‘What will happen to her?’ Angela asked.
‘For a start it will be “him” as far as the investigating officer and the CPS are concerned. Melissa hadn’t begun to transition because I think, only she and her mother knew the truth about her gender identity.’
‘Okay, but he’ll have to go to court?’
‘I expect so. The charge will depend on whether they think he was defending himself or intended to harm or kill his father.’
‘What’s the evidence against him?’
‘I’m not sure, but that knife being so handy is a problem. Did Matthew have it with the intention of causing injury to the father who he disliked? He had the opportunity and they will dig around to find the motive for wanting to kill his father.’
‘But they will understand that he is really Melissa; that she is trans.’
‘I’m not sure Ange. She’ll be traumatised by what has happened and she may not be in a state to describe how she feels.’
‘What about the mother? Won’t she support her child?’
‘I don’t know. She’s lost a husband. I don’t know how close they were.’
‘Oh, James, what a mess.’
James bowed his head. ‘Yes. I really feel for the kid. How would I have felt if my father had found out about me when I was that age, and took against it.’
‘Your father never did know about Jasmine.’
‘I know, and because he’s dead now I will never know if he could understand why I have to be Jasmine now and then.’
‘Your mother knows.’
‘Yes, but she can’t accept that part of me wants to be a woman.’
‘She can’t let go of the boy she raised.’
James shrugged, ‘Which is why I wonder how much Melissa’s mother is on her side.’
Angela stood up. ‘I’d better get ready for work. What are you going to do about Melissa?’
James lay back. ‘What can I do? It’s in the hands of the investigating officer from the Violent and Serious Crime unit. He’ll interview Matthew and his mother and anyone else they think of, then pass the case to the CPS. I’ve written up my report with Sarah. That’s the end of my involvement.’

Later, James reported for duty. He met up with PC Ward in the briefing room and they chatted about the previous night’s events. The Sergeant came in and gave them and the other response teams an update on the present situation and issued orders for the shift.
‘What about us?’ Sarah said when she and James weren’t given any instructions.
The Sergeant replied, ‘I want you to hold on here for a while. DS Sharma wants to speak to you.’
‘He’s the SIO in last night’s case,’ James said.
‘That’s right. He’ll be along shortly.’ The Sergeant went out and the other teams set off leaving James and Sarah alone.
‘Why does he need to speak to us?’ Sarah said to the wall as much as to James. ‘Our report was okay.’
‘I think so,’ James said.
‘It’s a simple case, isn’t it? Manslaughter. The kid will get a few years in a youth offender institution.’
James shrugged, ‘I suppose so.’
The door opened, and the Detective Sergeant who had appeared at the scene of the crime the previous evening entered. He looked from Sarah to James.
‘PC James Frame?’ James nodded. ‘You picked up Matthew Chapman, last night.’
‘We found him,’ James agreed.
The DS shook his head. ‘No, I mean it was you, PC Frame, that spoke to him, stopped him from jumping in the river and persuaded him to come into custody.’
‘Er, yes,’ James replied.
‘Well, I have a request to make,’ DS Bhanu Sharma said. ‘The boy is refusing to talk to me or my colleagues. Either he’s too choked up by what he’s done or he’s blocking us. We need to get him to admit to what he did, but he says he’ll only speak to you, PC Frame.’
‘Oh,’ James muttered feeling confused.
‘Why?’ PC Ward said, ‘We were both there. I read him his rights and we brought him in in the car.’
‘All he says is that PC Frame understands. I think he means about this wanting to be a girl thing his mother’s mentioned. What do you know about it Frame?’
James felt ice spread from his chest to the top of his head. His principal horror was his colleagues discovering about Jasmine, laughing about his desire to wear female clothes and act like a girl. He couldn’t imagine being able to survive the nightmare of his other life being talked about. His career in the police would be over.
‘Um,’ was all he managed.
‘What is it man? Do you know anything about this transvestism thing this boy’s got?’
The words came out slowly. ‘Uh, I think the term is transsexual, Sir.’
‘Isn’t it the same thing?’ the DS said.
‘No, a transsexual wants to live their life in the gender they identify with which isn’t their biological gender.’
‘What does that mean?’
‘Matthew said he’s really a girl and that he wants to be called Melissa.’
Sarah stared at James with her mouth open. ‘Did he tell you that last night?’
James nodded.
‘But you didn’t put it in the report,’ PC Ward said
‘I didn’t think it was factually relevant to us finding him and arresting him.’
‘Anything the suspect says is important,’ DS Sharma said, ‘As a police officer you should know that. You’d better revise your report, but first tell me what you know about this trans stuff.’
‘Um,’ James searched for an answer, ‘It was at university.’ He began.
‘What was? Come on, man,’ Sharma said.
‘I knew someone who was transgender.’
‘Transgender. What’s that?’ the DS asked.
‘It’s a sort of general term for people who have questions about their gender. It includes transvestites and transsexuals.’
‘Questions about their gender! Pah! Okay, so did you know this guy well?’
‘Yes, I got to know her pretty much,’ James relaxed a bit. Perhaps this imaginary friend could take the pressure off him. She could be an amalgam of Jasmine and other TG people he and Angela had met. ‘She was called Tamsin,’ he concluded, the name having popped into his mind.
‘This Tamsin was a bloke?’ Sharma asked.
‘She’d been born a boy and had the body of a man, but she lived as a woman and wanted to have gender reassignment surgery.’
‘What’s that?’
‘A sex change. That’s what the papers call it.’
‘But he’d still be a guy.’
‘When we were at uni, but now, since 2004. . .’
‘2004?’
‘The Gender Recognition Act. She could apply for a certificate now, recognising her change of gender and get a new birth certificate.’
The DS stroked his chin. ‘You think that is what Chapman wants?’
James shrugged. ‘I don’t know, Sir. We only exchanged a few words, but I got the impression that Melissa is pretty certain that she is a girl and that her father didn’t approve.’
‘Hmm, well, we’d better get you into the interview room. Perhaps he’ll open up to you and spill the beans on his relationship with his father and whether he intended to kill him.’
Sarah stepped in, ‘Jim, are you sure you knew this Tamsin well enough to cope with Matthew or Melissa or whoever?’
James faced Sarah, ‘I think so, Sarah. I’d like to have a go with Melissa.’
‘Come on then, PC Frame,’ the DS said heading for the door, ‘Time is money and my boss won’t want to have to spend too much on this case. See what you can get out of the kid.’

………………….to be continued

 

Jasmine at an ending

In the last week there have been two minor bits of news that have got me fuming. The first was a secondary school’s announcement that it was introducing a gender neutral school uniform.  In other words all the students, male, female and gender-fluid, would have to wear the same outfit of trousers, shirt and, I think, blazer and tie. They said this was to be inclusive to transgender students. I don’t think they actually asked any pupils for their opinions or ideas before making the decision, perhaps they did, but I doubt it. The point is that the uniform is not gender neutral, it is male. Now, girls often wear trousers and a shirt but I doubt whether all girls want to wear trousers and a shirt all the time.  I’ll come back to that in moment.

The second item was the “Christian” mother and father who withdrew their “confused” six year old son from a C of E primary school because the school had allowed another pupil who had been classed as a boy to wear a dress.  It’s not clear whether the gender-variant pupil was making a permanent change from male to female or was taking it day to day. In this case the school was following the law of the UK, following the 2010 Equality Act, recognising that gender is not dependent on what bits you have between your legs and giving transgender people the same rights as every one else. Secondly the C of E recently adopted, at last, an inclusive and welcoming attitude to transgendered people of all ages.  The critical parents have no cause to complain about the school’s action and if they want to lock their child away from an inclusive and diverse society they can home-school him. I fear for their child. The other child I hope will continue to receive support from his school, parents and peers.

What irritates me is that both cases show people just not getting this gender thing. If a school really wants to have a gender neutral uniform policy then allow all students to wear what they like within a set list of trousers, skirts (or dresses), shirts, blouses, and whatever else is deemed necessary. The clothes themselves are not gender specific; it is people that make stereotypical assumptions about what people wear. There is nothing about a skirt that makes it exclusively female other than preconceptions. Also of course, gender identity isn’t just about clothes, but that’s a longer story.

Gender stereotypes are not only discriminatory to those who identify with a gender that does not match their physical attributes. They also have a negative effect on boys and girls generally.  99% of boys are happy being boys and probably never think about their gender. The same applies to 99% of girls. But stereotypical attitudes such as girls are weak, cannot do maths, while boys are boisterous and don’t do emotions, hold back boys’ and girls’ development in many different areas. I would advocate removing all stereotypical gender clues from homes, schools, everywhere in fact, and let children’s gender identity grow naturally. The result may be more rounded characters of boys and girls, and more toleration of those that are different to the 99%.

………………………….

Next Saturday I will at another Bookfair, once again offering my Jasmine Frame and September Weekes books for sale at very generous prices.  Come and have a look around Sandbach.21231716_1488469007907635_8734692676374905958_n

And finally, we’ve reached the final episode of Viewpoint, chronologically the last prequel before Painted Ladies.  Comments welcome.

Viewpoint: Part 14

DC Kingston looked blank for a moment, then nodded.
‘I see. Stay here. Taylor’s in the next room, but when Tom and Terry have finished talking to him they may send him back to the cells. I’ll be back soon.’ He turned and left the room leaving Jasmine sitting with a cold cup of coffee and cold slice of toast. She ate the toast.

Almost half an hour passed and Jasmine was fidgeting with boredom. At last the door opened and Derek entered.
‘We’ve got response teams looking for your Harold up and down the canal. Tom and Terry have just finished Taylor’s interrogation. He didn’t answer any of their questions. The custody officer is going to take him, back to the cell in a minute or two. Come and stand in the corridor.’
Jasmine got up and followed her colleague. They stood a few feet along from the door into the other interview room. The moments passed and Jasmine wondered what she should say to Taylor.
A burly uniformed officer passed them and opened the door. A few seconds later, Kevin Taylor emerged. He looked more dishevelled than before, with another day’s growth of beard and heavy eyes.
Jasmine stepped into his path. He stopped and looked at her without registering recognition.
‘I didn’t meet Alfie, but I know what he went through,’ Jasmine began.
‘Don’ know an Alfie,’ Taylor recited like a well-rehearsed refrain.
‘You called him Lucy, but he’d never been your daughter. You knew it, really. Before he left you beat him for saying he was a boy and making himself look masculine.’
Taylor stared at her, not responding, but his eyelids flickered.
Jasmine went on. ‘When he went to Weymouth he got help. He managed to have his breasts removed. But it wasn’t because he was trans. Do you know why he was able to get it done?’
Taylor stood impassive but his head almost moved from side to side.
‘It was because of his mother, your wife, who had supported him. Alfie had her genes and had a high risk of getting breast cancer. So, they gave him the mastectomy that helped him become the man he knew himself to be. But you, his only remaining parent, denied him.’
‘He wasn’t my girl,’ Taylor blurted.
‘Not your girl, but the same person he’d always been. The child of you and your wife, left in your care after his mother died.’
‘It was a bloke that appeared on my doorstep. He said he was my son. I told him I only had a daughter.’
‘He wanted your help. A father’s help.’
Taylor cried out. ‘He wasn’t my girl.’
‘He was the same person,’ Jasmine repeated.
‘She’d had things done to her. Like my darling Rosie. It made me angry to see how she’d changed.’
‘So angry that you had to get rid of him?’
‘Riley said he’d see to her.’
‘He took him away, kept him prisoner, hurt him. You gave your son to two heartless thugs who thought they could have their sadistic fun with someone they barely thought of as human, because you had rejected him. They beat him, raped him, killed him.’
Jasmine saw Taylor’s eyes widening in horror.
‘I didn’t mean them to kill her,’ he appealed. ‘I didn’t know what Riley and Owen were like. When he told me that Lucy was dead I didn’t know what to think.’
‘But they had to get rid of the body so you helped them.’
‘I didn’t know what else I could do.’
‘You helped them put the bodyin the back of your car and drove it to the canal.’
‘Yes.’
‘And dumped the body of your son in the water.’
Taylor raised his hands to his face and sobbed. ‘Yes.’
Derek Kingston stepped forward and took Taylor’s arm. ‘I think we’d better go back into the interview room, Mr Taylor. Perhaps you will answer some questions now that we’ve heard you admit to helping dispose of your son’s body. Maybe you’d like the solicitor that you refused earlier.’
Taylor, shrunken, with tears streaking his grubby cheeks, nodded, and was led by the custody officer back into the interview room.
Derek turned to Jasmine. ‘Thanks. We got our breakthrough. Why don’t you go down to the canteen and get a fresh coffee.’
Jasmine nodded and trudged off reluctantly. She wanted to complete the job and get Taylor’s signed statement admitting his part in Alfie’s death, but she accepted that she wasn’t going to be given that opportunity.

She sat alone at a table, with a steaming mug of instant coffee, munching a soggy sausage roll. The canteen was quiet at this time of day, just a few officers and civilians chatting on their break. The canteen wasn’t very cheery but it was a place of refuge from the often-frenzied work taking place on the floors above. She took a sip of coffee thinking it would probably be the last time she would have to drink the not very palatable fluid.
‘Derek said he’d sent you down here.’
Jasmine looked up to see Tom standing over her. ‘Hi, Tom.’
‘Sloane asked me to find you. He wants to see you.’
Jasmine put her mug down. Another coffee that would turn cold. She stood up. ‘Okay then. I don’t suppose he wants to congratulate me.’
‘You did get us a result, Jas. Derek said how you got Taylor to break down. That was great work.’
‘I was letting my feelings out, that’s all. I just wanted that chance to tell him about his son, making him see that Alfie was the same person as Lucy. The little girl he thought he had brought up had become a young man. Unfortunately, a depressed and disappointed young man.’
‘Well, however you did it, Taylor is now answering questions and with the evidence we’ve got and a witness statement from your mate Harold, we’ve found him by the way, the case against Riley and Owen is wrapped up.’
They climbed the stairs to the V&SCU office. The main room was empty but the door to Sloane’s own office was open.
‘You’d better go in,’ Tom said, urging Jasmine forward. She crossed the room and tapped on the door before stepping into the inner sanctum of Sloane’s domain. He looked up from the pile of files he had in front of him.
‘Ah, Frame.’ His nose creased as his eyes took in Jasmine’s tights, skirt, bosom and lipstick. Jasmine stood in front of his desk not surprised that she was not invited to sit down.
‘I understand that the body in the canal case is all but completed,’ the DCI said.
‘Yes, Sir,’ Jasmine replied wondering what was coming next.
‘So, you can go home and resume your final leave prior to the termination of your employment at the end of the month,’ Sloane continued.
‘Yes, Sir.’
Sloane sniffed and drew in a breath. ‘I am sorry that this is the conclusion of our acquaintance.’
‘Yes, Sir.’ Jasmine found herself stuck in a rut of affirmatives with nothing else to say.
Sloane hadn’t finished however. ‘When you joined this unit, Frame, I had high hopes for you and indeed at first you showed that you had the potential to be a fine detective. But, this change you’ve undergone, are, um, undergoing, has unbalanced you. You have become insubordinate, impetuous, careless of your safety, and have placed responsibilities on your colleagues. That is not good in a member of a team, so while I am sad to lose an officer I think you have made this parting inevitable.’
Jasmine felt her cheeks beginning to flush. ‘Please, Sir, may I say something.’
Sloane’s eyebrows rose in surprise. ‘Yes, of course, Frame.’
She summoned the words for what she felt. ‘The Police Force has been very helpful concerning my transition, Sir, but I don’t think my senior officers in this unit have been so understanding. I was side-lined and left to do the in-office tasks instead of joining in other aspects of investigations. Jobs which I had shown I had an aptitude for. Even in this case, DS Palmerston ignored the information that I supplied regarding the victim.’
Sloane puffed out his cheeks. ‘DS Palmerston has been a very successful senior investigating officer. In fact, I recommended her for promotion to Detective Inspector and as a result she is moving to another post, in Warwickshire, I believe.’
‘Palmerston is leaving?’ Jasmine said, feeling simultaneously victorious and disappointed.
‘Yes. It means I have two places to fill – one for a DS and one a DC. But that won’t concern you Frame. I understand you are becoming a private detective.’ His nose and mouth creased with disdain. ‘I hope you are successful in your new career.’
‘I will be, DCI Sloane, I will be.’ Jasmine turned on her heels and strode out. She passed Tom as she crossed the office.
‘Oh, Jas,’ he called, ‘here are your car keys.’ He held out the Fiesta’s key fob. She took it.
‘Thanks, Tom.’
‘I hope she starts okay. Derek had a bit of trouble last night bringing her back.’
‘She’s temperamental, Tom.’
‘Like her owner.’ Tom’s voice dropped to a whisper, ‘I heard you having a go at Sloane about Denise. I didn’t know she was leaving.’
‘Well, there you are Tom, your chance to get your Detective Sergeant post. Good luck.’
She walked out of the office, waving goodbye to Tom and her career as a police officer.

The End

 

Jasmine fears for her life

When this blog goes live I will (or should) be at the UK Indie Lit Fest in Bradford.  There, I hope to meet lots of other writers and sell lots of books – we’ll see.  Next week it’s off to Warwick for the annual NAWG festival which promises to be fun – more of that later.

Not a lot of time for writing in the last week thanks to preparations for the weekends and other stuff.  However I did manage to complete reading Eddie Izzard’s autobiography, Believe Me.  It’s not a long account and reads a little like his stand-up style – stream of consciousness with thought-provoking and amusing asides.  While I found his tales of childhood, school and the decade of training for his career in front of audiences enlightening but I was, of course, most interested to read about his transvestism. It didn’t disappoint.

51KeV+2+txL._AC_US218_Eddie tells of discovering at a pretty young age his urge to put on women’s clothes but it wasn’t till he was starting his comedy career and living in London that he dared to go out dressed. His early trans history seems like many – a fumbling, nervous journey to finding  the styles and appearance that at least partly satisfied the desire to be feminine. Gradually he became more confident and confessed his transvestism to friends and family. I hadn’t realised that it wasn’t till the nineties, when he was already a growing success on the stand-up circuit, that he first went on stage in any feminine guise.  Having found that it didn’t deter audiences he kept at it but made sure that he didn’t become known as a purely trans-comedian. He would do one show in male clothes and another in feminine dress without changing his material.

WP_20170824_12_54_04_ProGradually he came to a similar conclusion about himself as I have done.  He doesn’t attempt to pass as a woman but just confesses to liking wearing heels, makeup, nail varnish and items of feminine clothing.  He seems pretty content.  Izzard calls it “action transvestism”.  I think it is being non-binary or at least blurring the lines between male and female.  Now when I go out, fully dressed and made up in female guise but without boobs or wig, I can’t imagine that I “pass” but it seems to work and I have yet to experience a negative response.  We’ll see this weekend, up north. . .

And so to this week’s episode of Viewpoint, the Jasmine Frame novella.  She’s got herself into a bit of pickle has our Jasmine.  Can she get herself out of it?

Viewpoint: Part 11

‘Er, ‘ello, Mr Taylor. Didna ‘spect to see you ‘ere again.’ Riley replied.
Jasmine opened her eyes to see Gary lowering his arm and stepping away from her. She heard Riley shuffling and the hard sound of boots on the wooden floor.
‘I didn’t expect to see you here either Riley but when you didn’t answer yer phone I thought I’d better come lookin’ for yer.’
‘Sorry, Mr Taylor. I left ma phone in ma cabin.’
‘Yer a fool Riley. What yer doing with another girl here? Yer know the cops have been snooping around.’
‘She wuz ‘ere when we came to clean up the place.’
The heavy steps came closer, and Jasmine found herself looking up into the stubbled face of Alfie’s father.
‘Yer bloody fools,’ he shouted, turning on Riley and his mate. ‘Do yer know who this is?’
‘’im said he was a private dick. ‘im’s a bloke dressed as a tart.’
‘I know,’ Taylor roared, ‘but he’s a copper. He was at my place last night. I don’t know how he did it but somehow, he linked you t’me. That’s why you and I have had visits today from the fuzz.’
‘But they don’t know about this place,’ Riley complained, ‘That’s why we came to clean it up like, so that there’s no sign of yer girl.’
Taylor’s voice rose another pitch. ‘Don’t call her my girl. It wasn’t my princess you did away with. The cops will know of this place now. Unless. . .’ he subsided to almost a whisper, ‘he’s on his own in which case we just have to get rid of him.’
‘That’s what we were goin’ to do,’ Riley sounded proud of himself.
‘Not here, you fucking idiot,’ Taylor shouted. ‘There’ll be more mess to clear up. Get him in the Landie and we’ll cart him off to somewhere where the cops won’t find him.’
‘Where?’ Riley asked.
‘Dunno. Not the fucking canal again tha’s for sure. Just get him out of here and make sure he can’t get away.’
Gary had been standing silently, his knife-holding arm hanging by his side. ‘Don’t we get to have some fun?’
Jasmine heard Riley let out a sigh. ‘Don’t you get it, Gary? It’s an ‘im not an ‘er. He’s got a cock not a cunt. Come on, do as Mr Taylor says.’
The two men turned to Jasmine. Gary held her down while Riley untied her ankles from the bed but quickly re-bound them together. She tried to wriggle but Gary cuffed her around the head and out his considerable weight on her. Riley did the same with her arms, rolling her over to fasten her wrists behind her back, then stuffed a filthy rag in her mouth and bound cord around her head. She found she had to concentrate on sucking air into her lungs. Gary picked her up as if she was a sack of potatoes, tossed her over his shoulder and carried her out of the hut into the dark. He dropped her, not at all carefully onto the straw covered rear of the Land Rover. The lights of the hut went out.
‘Get in the front,’ Taylor ordered. Soon the engine started and they began to move. Jasmine was bounced up and down as they travelled along the rough track. Each bump threw her up an inch or two; each fall on the hard surface of the pick-up bruising her and making her worry about getting her next breath. Jasmine was relieved when they reached a smoother, metalled road and the bouncing lessened although the speed increased and the cold wind froze her body.
Jasmine could see nothing of their journey, nor interpret the motion of the vehicle, and had to use nearly all her concentration to breathe and overcome the pain of the cords biting into her wrists and ankles. She had enough sense though, to note that the surroundings remained dark revealing that they were still in the country.
After a time in which the pain in her arms and legs went through numbness to agony, the Land Rover slowed and started to buck again. Treetops closed over the clouded sky. Jasmine had no idea where they were other than they were off even the minor roads and in a wooded area.
The vehicle stopped and Jasmine heard the doors of the cab open.
‘Keep you voices down,’ Taylor hissed. ‘Gary get the fucker; Riley bring some tools. Yer going to have dig, the two of you.’
Jasmine was picked up and thrown over the big man’s shoulder. They set off into the rough ground under the trees. After a few minutes Gary stopped.
‘Is this far enough, boss? Me back is killing me.’
There was a pause then Taylor spoke. ‘Yeah, it’ll do, I s’pose. Dump him and get digging.’
Jasmine was dropped. She hit the ground with a thump that would have hurt a lot more if the floor of the wood hadn’t been covered with a thick layer of leaf litter. She lay still, struggling for air. She heard the sound of a pick-axe thudding into the earth, a spade grinding into the ground and soil being thrown. With her face almost pressed into the muck she saw the merest reflections of pale, yellow light from a single torch. There was almost no feeling in her limbs now other than an undefined, excruciating ache. Even if she could loosen the bonds she didn’t think she’d be able to move. Escape seemed impossible. She didn’t want to die; she couldn’t bear the thought of dying but hope was dribbling away with every moment.
‘Police! Don’t move! Drop the tools!’ A shout, the voice familiar. Two, three bright white torchlights. ‘You’re under arrest. Don’t try to get away. You are surrounded.’
Jasmine recognised the caller. It was Tom Shepherd.
‘What were you intending to bury?’ Tom asked. The torch-light grew weaker then stronger until a beam entered her partly open eyes.
‘Jasmine?’

……………to be continued

Jasmine in the dark

I’d rather not have to think about Trump but I cannot ignore his latest (as of Thursday) order, that is, banning transpeople from the US armed forces.  It could be said that it is none of my business as I don’t live in the USA but the fact is that anything Trump says or does reverberates around the world.  With the UK government cosying up to him to get a “super” trade deal post Brexit, what happens in the USA has repercussions here.

Why has Trump made his banning order? I am sure the only generals he spoke to were the ones who would support his view and the cost argument is a mere excuse. I think that first and foremost Trump is trying to overturn everything that Obama did and stood for.  Allowing transpeople to serve was one of Obama’s last acts so it must be high up Trump’s list.  Secondly, Trump is of course trying to appeal to his core followers – right wing, bible-bashing bigots. His support has diminished considerably since he sort of won the presidential election but he has to keep those committed Trumpsters cheering him to soothe his ego.

What will be the effect of Trump’s order?  I don’t suppose it will affect the USA armed services a great deal but it gives legitimacy to anyone who sees transpeople as being abnormal and a separate segment of society who should be treated differently.  If the right to serve can be denied to a transperson, what other rights can be removed? Of course what applies to transpeople can quickly be extended to others – gays, ethnic minorities, women.

What this news does is put transpeople in the spotlight. It could make them a target for the misguided people who feel that using violence against minorities is doing Trump’s or God’s work.  We must not allow any actions against transpeople or other minorities to be ignored or dismissed as unimportant.

Not a good week for the human race.

………………………..

IMGP5761Let’s move swiftly on to this week’s episode of Viewpoint.  Just a reminder that this is the latest of the prequel novellas that I put out on this blog.  The three novels, Painted Ladies, Bodies By Design, and The Brides’ Club Murder are each available as e-books and paperbacks.  The two novellas, Discovering Jasmine and Murder In Doubt are only on Kindle. Go to my Jasmine Frame page for more details.

Viewpoint: Part 7

Keep calm, she told herself, he doesn’t know who you are. He doesn’t want to shoot you, really. She reached into her pocket. He stiffened and the barrel of the shotgun moved a few centimetres towards her.
‘I’m a police officer, Jasmine Frame,’ Jasmine said, pulling her warrant card from her pocket and holding it up. The gun didn’t move. ‘I’m investigating the movements of Alfie Benson.’ The gun barrel remained threateningly close to her.
‘Don’t know the name,’ the man growled.
‘You are Mr Taylor, owner of Yew Tree Farm?’
‘What of it?’
‘You had a daughter, Lucy?’
The barrel wobbled. Was he losing control, she fretted. How do I get out of this without getting shot, deliberately or accidentally? I need to keep calm and keep him calm, she thought.
‘Yeah, I did once. She left.’
‘When was that?’
‘A long time ago. Years.’
‘You haven’t seen her recently? In the last year?’
‘No.’ The gun was brandished at her. ‘Why’re you asking?’
‘I told you. I’m trying to find out where Alfie Benson went.’ She didn’t want to make the link to Lucy Taylor explicit. He was obviously in denial about his daughter’s gender change.
‘I said, I don’t know that person. You sound funny. Are you a bloke?’
Jasmine felt ice in her veins. If he didn’t accept Alfie’s transition, what would his reaction be to her as a transsexual police officer? Perhaps this was the moment to retreat.
‘OK, Mr Taylor. Thank you. I’ll be on my way.’
She moved away from the gate, circling around the end of the gun to her car. The barrel followed her than dropped. She felt Taylor watching her as she got in and heard a muttered ‘Fucking, tranny’. The engine started first time, she was grateful for that, and she pulled out onto the narrow lane. She looked in her mirror. The dark figure of Mr Taylor watched her for a moment and then moved out of sight, up the farm track. Jasmine drove on for a few more yards till she came to another field entrance. She pulled in, as far off the road as she could and turned off the engine and lights. Opening her window, drizzle blew into her face. She adjusted her wing mirror to provide a view back up the road then wound the window back up and slid down so that her head was below the back of the seat. Was her hunch right or was she going to have to spend as long as she could bear in this somewhat unusual position?
It was only a few minutes. Movement in her mirror attracted her attention. A vehicle emerged from the farm entrance, turned and accelerated towards her. When it passed her the battered Land Rover Defender was already moving faster than she would be comfortable driving along these lanes. Jasmine pushed herself back up the seat and started the engine. She set off down the lane, following but not matching the farmer’s speed.
He was out of sight when she reached the main road. She took a guess, turned towards Kintbridge and put her foot down. The old Fiesta whined as she took her speed up to sixty. She was grateful that there was little traffic on the dark, wet night. A couple of minutes later, on a straight stretch of the road she saw the red lights of a vehicle ahead. She kept her speed up until she was certain. It was the Land Rover. She slowed, ensuring that she was a good distance behind Taylor.
They passed under the bypass but then Taylor turned right onto a minor road. Jasmine followed, some distance behind, wary of catching him up. They drove a few hundred yards along the lane and then she saw Taylor turn left. She slowed down and as she approached the turning she realised it was an entrance. Driving past she peered into the murky darkness. It was a park home site. She drove on for fifty metres and pulled off the road where there seemed to be a wide and firm grass verge.
She trudged back along the lane to the entrance. There were no gates just a low brick wall on both sides of the road. The low rectangular buildings forming silhouettes against the dark sky were set out in a regular grid. One or two had lights showing but most were dark. Jasmine walked slowly up the driveway between the buildings, trying to think of her story if anyone approached her. She passed the first and the second row of homes and then she stopped. The Land Rover had pulled off the drive and was parked beside the next single-story cabin. That was all she needed to know. She turned and walked hastily back to her car.

Jasmine yawned as she climbed the stairs to the office. She hadn’t slept well thinking about Alfie Benson and his father. She walked along the corridor and pushed the door to V&SC unit open. She saw at once that she was late. She glanced at her watch. It was precisely seven a.m. but the team were already standing facing DS Palmerston and the white board with photos stuck to it. Palmerston saw her enter and gave her a look which would have curdled a dozen bottles of milk.
‘So, DC Frame deigns to join us after her jaunt around the country.’
Tom turned his head and gave her a sympathetic smile. Jasmine went to his side refusing to respond to her senior officer.
Palmerston faced the team. ‘Thanks to our wandering DC, we know the victim found in the canal yesterday was named Lucy Taylor, formerly of Weymouth but recently of no known address. We also know that she died before entering the canal,’ she glanced at the sheet of paper she was holding, ‘of asphyxiation due to pressure on her windpipe, possibly by a rope.’
Sadness gripped Jasmine. It was all too easy to imagine the transman dying in terror.
Palmerston went on. ‘The pathologist also reports other injuries on her body from before she died. She had had a double mastectomy, there was a bruise on her left cheek and on many parts of her body suggesting she had been beaten. He also thinks that marks on her vagina suggest she had sexual intercourse forcibly on at least one occasion not long before she died.’
‘He was raped,’ Jasmine blurted out.
‘She, not he,’ Palmerston sneered, ‘You found out for us that her legal name was Lucy Taylor and that she had never been granted a G, er R, er, whatever.’
‘He had lived as Alfie Benson for six years,’ Jasmine said, ‘He was stopped from transitioning fully and from applying for a G R C, because of his poor mental health.’
‘I am sure her doctors recommended the best treatment for her,’ Palmerston replied.
Derek Kingston coughed. ‘It does seem that she was mistreated and raped before being killed.’
‘Yes, of course, Derek,’ Palmerston gave the detective constable a smile as if she was pleased with his assessment of the case. ‘It appears that she was treated poorly for some time before she was killed. The question is where?’
‘If she lived in Weymouth how did she end up in the canal here?’ Terry Hopkins moaned.
‘She hadn’t lived in Weymouth for months,’ Tom answered.
‘I think she was here,’ Jasmine said. All four of the detectives looked at her.
‘Here?’ DS Palmerston said her voice rising.
‘The Kintbridge area,’ Jasmine clarified. ‘She was brought up in Cindersworth where her father, Mr Taylor, still runs Yew Tree Farm.’
‘You had an address for her father!’ Denise Palmerston screamed.
Jasmine had guessed she would be in for a roasting when she revealed she had that knowledge.
‘Yes, it was in her medical notes that the Gender Identity Clinic in Exeter supplied. They’re in the case file. You could have accessed it.’
‘But you didn’t see fit to draw our attention to that fact.’
‘I was told that you had gone off duty and wouldn’t be interested until this meeting.’
Palmerston subsided a little as she struggled to find a suitable rejoinder. ‘We need to speak to Mr Taylor and inform him of his daughter’s death. I am sure he will be upset at the news.’
Jasmine had a reply, ‘I don’t think so; not as a grieving, loving parent.’
All her colleagues stared at her.
‘What do you mean, Jas?’ Tom asked.
Jasmine took a deep breath. ‘Well, first of all, Mr Taylor abused Alfie after Mrs Taylor died. Alfie was a teenager and wanting to transition. His father beat him and raped him. Alfie told the GIC nurse but wouldn’t report it to the police.’
‘That’s a serious allegation,’ Palmerston said.
‘The nurse I spoke to thought it was a significant contributor to Alfie’s depression that stopped her going further.’
Derek stared at Jasmine, his eyes questioning. ‘You said firstly, Jas. Do you have more?’
Jasmine smiled. ‘Mr Taylor denies all knowledge of Alfie Benson and says he hasn’t seen his daughter Lucy for years.’
‘How do you know that?’ DC Hopkins asked.
‘You’ve spoken to him, haven’t you,’ Tom said, his eyes wide, ‘You called at the farm on the way home last night.’
‘Yes,’ Jasmine admitted. ‘And I think I know where Alfie was held.’

……………………..to be continued.

 

Jasmine follows a hunch

So Jeremy Corbyn supports self-identification for transgender people. He says the Labour Party would support a Bill to modify the Gender Recognition Act to remove the requirement for medical tests as part of gender reassignment. May’s government says it is considering the change but has not committed to making it.  (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jul/19/let-trans-people-self-identify-gender-corbyn-urges-may)

What would it mean?

The most important effect would be the demedicalisation of gender identity.  Like sexuality, it would become a personal matter.  Changing gender would be as easy as changing your name.  Once upon a time being gay was not only a crime but a medical condition which some doctors thought could be treated.  Now, while identifying as something other than your birth gender is not a crime, transitioning to the gender you identify with does involve jumping through various medical hoops including proving that your mental health is good enough to make the decision.  Already, the GRA allows transgender people to transition without undergoing surgery or hormone treatment but insists on a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. The proposed change would allow the individual to make the decision on their own, by right.

Self-identification could have wider beneficial effects. If gender is no longer seen as a medical issue then it could accelerate the breakdown of gender barriers and improve gender equality. Why demand a statement of gender to open a bank account, store account et al, if gender can be changed by personal decision?  Why demand to know someone’s gender when they apply for a job hence bringing all sorts of bias into play?  With many modern names gender neutral, a person’s character will be at the forefront not their gender.

I hope any changes to the law will not perpetuate gender stereotypes by insisting that a person declare themselves permanently male or female.  If gender identity is demedicalised then it must become possible to declare that one has no gender, both or a mix. That would please me a lot.  Let’s hope Corbyn and the Labour Party stick to their word and the Tory government (backed by the DUP) are not persuaded by the reactionary elements in their ranks.

……………………………………

cover mediumYou might have seen my news elsewhere that the cover of my new fantasy/speculative fiction novel, Cold Fire, has been revealed by Elsewhen Press.  The e-book will be available in August and the paperback in October.  It is a September Weekes story involving Welsh myth, C17th science, and my own vision of fantastic creatures.  I love the cover and the interpretation of the creature – it’s red, flies and spits fire, so what is it?

 

 

 

 

 

Back to Jasmine Frame in Viewpoint, the prequel to Painted Ladies.  Jasmine is investigating the death of a transman.

Viewpoint: Part 6

Hazel shook her head slowly and shrugged. ‘I don’t know. Alfie missed an appointment once before we saw him for the last time in October last year. I remember him being depressed and uncommunicative. We did get out of him that he was struggling to get by – no job, limited benefits, few friends in Weymouth.’
‘And getting nowhere with his transition,’ Jasmine added.
The nurse nodded. ‘That’s right. We couldn’t recommend him for medication and surgery in the state he was in. I worried if he was becoming suicidal.’
Jasmine flinched. She hadn’t considered suicide. Was she mistaken? No, she was almost certain Alfie hadn’t killed himself.
‘I’ve been assuming he was murdered,’ she said, ‘His body looked as though it had been dumped in the canal.’
Hazel looked grim. ‘Well, I can’t say what has happened to him in the last year. He didn’t come to his appointment; he hasn’t replied to emails and the last letter we sent was returned to us as “unknown at this address”.’
‘You think he moved from Weymouth?’
‘Seems like.’
‘Where would he have gone?’ Jasmine was struggling to put herself into the mind of a depressed and lonely transman.
Hazel shrugged again. ‘The only other address we have is where he grew up. His father’s home. Despite everything his father was still his next of kin.’
Jasmine felt a surge of interest. Another lead perhaps. ‘What’s the address?’
Hazel flicked through the file. ‘Ah, here it is. Yew Tree Farm, Cindersworth, Hampshire.’
Jasmine gasped. ‘But that’s no distance from where Alfie’s body was dumped.’
‘Really?’ The nurse’s eyebrows were raised.
‘I don’t know the farm, but Cindersworth is a village south of Kintbridge. It can’t be ten miles to the canal. Surely, he wouldn’t have -’
‘What?’
‘Gone home to his father and killed there.’ Jasmine couldn’t understand how the young man could return to the parent who had abused him, but of course Alfie wasn’t the man he wanted to be, he was a confused and depressed transsexual.
‘His father was the only family he had,’ Hazel offered, ‘Sometimes the devil you know is the only one drawing you in.’
Jasmine jumped from the sofa. ‘I’ll have to call there. Can I borrow your computer – I need to find the location of this farm.’
‘Yes, of course. Let me call up Google Maps for you.’ Hazel returned to the seat behind her desk and started tapping keys. Jasmine looked over her shoulder.
‘There we are,’ Jasmine said, stabbing a finger at the screen. ‘Can you print it off?’
Hazel nodded and the printer under the desk started chuntering. Jasmine grabbed the sheet of paper and scampered towards the door.
‘Thank you for all your assistance,’ she called.
‘I hope you find out what happened to Alfie,’ Hazel cried after her.

Jasmine was in her car and about to set off when her phone rang again. She glanced at the small screen. It wasn’t Palmerston this time but Tom. She decided to pick up.
‘Hi Tom.’
‘Jas! Where are you?’
‘Exeter. Just interviewed a nurse at the GIC that knew Alfie.’
‘That’s good, but you know Palmerston is furious don’t you.’
‘When isn’t she.’
‘Well, I suppose she is whenever your name is mentioned. She wants you back here.’
‘I expect she does.’
Tom’s voice became conspiratorial. ‘It may calm her down a bit if I tell her what you’ve found out.’
Jasmine considered for a moment. ‘Okay. Well Alfie Benson has been on the clinic’s books for six years but they haven’t heard from him in the last year. He wasn’t getting far with his transition because he was depressed.’ She paused. How much more should she tell Tom now?
‘Is that it?’
‘His birth name was Lucy Taylor. What have you got?’
‘Not a lot. That Weymouth address got us nowhere. Palmerston got the local cops to look in on it. The current tenant didn’t know an Alfie Benson and neither did any of the neighbours that they managed to speak to.’
‘Or they said they didn’t.’
‘Well, okay, perhaps. We haven’t managed to contact the landlord yet.’
‘So, you’ve got no leads on Alfie’s movements before he died.’
‘No, but it was definitely murder. Pathology says he was dead before entering the water and he’d been beaten severely.’
Jasmine was saddened by the news but wasn’t surprised. Was Alfie’s father the murderer? She wanted to find out.
‘Are you coming back then?’ Tom asked.
‘Yes, on my way.’ She glanced at her watch. It would be late evening by the time she got back to Kintbridge even without any detours.
‘We’ll be gone by the time you get here. Palmerston has called a meeting for seven tomorrow morning. She doesn’t think there are any leads to follow tonight.’
‘Even though she knows for certain that it’s a murder case?’ Jasmine was surprised at the DS’s lack of urgency.
‘As I said, no leads.’
Jasmine knew the real reason for the half-hearted attitude of her boss; the victim was TS and in Palmerston’s mind didn’t warrant her full attention.
‘Well, we’ll see about that. Bye Tom.’ She ended the call and turned off her phone. Peering through the windscreen into the dark, drizzly evening she didn’t relish the return journey but she turned the key in the ignition and pushed the gear lever forward.

The drive was frustrating and exhausting. Her eyes ached from peering through the drizzle and light rain, and she met lorry after slow lorry on the single-track stretches of the A303. It wasn’t surprising she was tired, she thought, after the day she’d had – a run, a ducking, mild hypothermia, the tension of a murder to investigate and the journey across country. Nevertheless, it wasn’t the fatigue which occupied her thoughts it was a mixture of her anger at Palmerston for . . . well, for being DS Denise Palmerston, and then there was Alfie Benson. What had he’d been thinking when he left his home in Weymouth? Had he returned to his father’s farm and was it there that he’d met his death?
A road sign reflected the not-so-bright headlights of the Fiesta. Straight ahead was her quickest way back to Kintbridge, the sensible route to her bed, but the sign reminded her of an alternative route, shorter if slower. It would pass near to Cindersworth and Alfie’s childhood home. She found herself taking the turning and joining the new road. It was a darker and narrower but quieter. The rain and the old Ford’s imperfect wipers caused her to lean forward to see the road ahead while looking out for signs.
A signpost to Cindersworth indicated a left turn. She braked hard, turned the wheel and was bumping up a steep, narrow lane. A traditional wooden sign loomed out of the darkness announcing that she had reached the village. She drove slowly past unlit cottages. Then she was back amongst hedges and trees and wondering what to do. The sensible thing would be to head on home but she saw the sign on a wide gate. It was a battered wooden board hanging from frayed ropes but the name was painted in white paint that stood out even through the mist. Yew Tree Farm.
She pulled up alongside the tubular-steel gate, wound down her window and peered into the night. There was a rutted track and a few dozen yards away the brooding presence of buildings. There were no lights, no suggestion that the farm was occupied. She got out and pulled the hood of her puffer jacket over her head and examined the gate. It had no lock or bolt, not even a piece of string looped over the gate post. She placed her hands under the top bar and lifted. The gate moved with a creak and whine of complaining hinges.
‘And who might you be?’
The gravelly voice caused Jasmine to drop the gate. She turned, trying to make out who had spoken. The shotgun attracted her attention first, the barrel glinting in the light from her car. It was hung over the shoulder of a man in an old waxed jacket with a tweed cap on his head. His face was dark and unshaven. He was an inch or two shorter than Jasmine but there was a sturdiness about him. The shot gun strap slid down his arm and the barrel rotated to point towards her.

……………………..to be continued.

Jasmine returns

WP_20170624_16_11_28_Pro

A selfie of me at the Pride event that was part of the Ludlow Fringe Festival

I did something earlier this week that I didn’t used to do.  I was giving a talk about being transgender and mentioned both my male and femme names. At one time I would never reveal my male identity when I was being Penny, but my use of two names is one of the remaining  indications that I can’t completely get rid of my gender stereotypes. I may have given up wearing a wig and false breasts to accentuate my femininity but I still present myself as male or female.  Gender fluid, I think I am, but non-binary is a difficult concept to realise. Most people still want to categorise you as one or the other and forms still demand a title without giving a genderless option – unless you happen to be a Dr or Rev.  Most important is the need to blend in rather than making an issue out of my gender.

I chose my femme name a long time ago because I didn’t consider that my male name, Peter, worked for me as a female.  Yes, I know there are feminine variants such as Peta and Petra (I have known women with both those names) but I didn’t feel comfortable with them. I wished I had one of those names that could be used for either gender. There are names used by both genders, such as Evelyn, Hilary, Leslie/Lesley, Lee/Leigh and Robin (male in UK, female in USA) or names that have a genderless diminutive e.g. Chris (Christopher/Christine), Alex (Alexander/Alexandra), Nicky (Nicholas/Nicola) etc. There are new names which are genderless  such as the hippy names  River and Willow, and others, like Jayden, that I don’t know where they come from .  As I am not going to change my legal name then I think I am stuck with Peter and Penny although I may use them interchangeably.

Choosing names for characters is one of the important but fun parts of planning a story. A character’s name must not be anachronistic and can convey their origins both in ethnicity and class.  I chose Jasmine as the femme name for my transsexual detective, back in 2001, because I thought it sounded a little unusual and exotic. In fact it is a much more common girl’s name than I thought but I’m afraid Jasmine is Jasmine now. Many of the trans characters I have created have pairs of names that connect such as Glen and Glenda when Jasmine was acting as a transvestite and Sandy/Sandra (both spoilers from Painted Ladies.). Vernon/Valerie and Gerald/Geraldine (The Brides’ Club Murder), David/Diana (Darkroom), Andy/Andrea (Aberration) are some of the many others. I don’t think that trans people do choose names like that but I think it helps readers to connect the male and female sides of the character.

There are no new names of characters yet in Viewpoint, the new prequel to Painted Ladies, but we’re only at part three so far.  Here it is.

Viewpoint: Part 3

Jasmine let the hot water cascade over her for minutes longer than her usual showers. She knew the electricity meter would be spinning but she waited till the last vestige of cold had been driven from her body. All the while she saw that cold corpse lying on the towpath. She tried to make sense of what she had seen. When she finally turned the shower off she felt she had an image of the person it had been, and she was worried.
She stepped from the cubicle and quickly wrapped a towel around herself, not merely to dry her body and keep warm but to avoid having to see herself naked. Her body didn’t match her self-image. Surgery was needed for the most dramatic transformation but that was a long way off. Nevertheless, now she was taking the drugs she was hoping for some changes but the hormones had yet to make a noticeable change to her figure. The doctor at the gender clinic had not been too confident of her developing the breasts she desired and nothing could change her broad shoulders and narrow pelvis. Still, she had hopes that one day her body would be recognisably female.
Once dressed in thick tights, a colourful but short woollen skirt and a thick jumper over her bra and false breasts, she prepared her breakfast. She was later than usual and there were things to do – not a lot, but she needed to continue preparations for going into business. She was munching a piece of toast and peanut butter when her mobile phone gave out its urgent ring.
She picked it up and wasn’t surprised to see that it was Tom Shepherd calling. Of course, they would want a statement from her on the discovery of the body.
‘Hi, Tom,’ she said cheerfully.
‘Jas! How are you? Have you warmed up?’
‘Yes, I’m fine now, Tom, but it was cold out there.’
‘Yeah. Look, you’re needed here.’
‘Where?’
‘The station.’
‘For my statement?’
‘Not just that. Sloane wants you on the case.’
Jasmine felt her muscles tense and heart beat increase.
‘But, Tom, I’m not part of the team any more. I resigned. Remember?’
‘I know that, Jas, but you’re still employed to the end of the month, aren’t you?’
‘Yes, I know, but what is it called? Gardening leave? I’m not expecting to work as a police officer anymore. I’m sure Palmerston doesn’t want to see me in that office again.’
There wasn’t an immediate reply but Jasmine heard conversation at the other end, and one familiar raised voice. The muffled exchange was brief.
‘Frame, are you there?’ It was DS Denise Palmerston’s voice blaring at her from the phone.
‘Yes I am. I thought I was talking to DC Shepherd,’ Jasmine said as calmly as she could manage.
‘Well, it’s me telling you to get yourself to this office, now!’
‘I’m not part of the V&SCU,’ Jasmine insisted, knowing that she was just dragging out the inevitable. What DS Palmerston wanted she invariably got.
‘Do you want me to send out a car to arrest you for obstructing an investigation.’
‘No, but . . .’
‘You are still a police officer, DC Frame. Get here now.’ There was an abrupt click of the call being ended. Jasmine imagined that if Palmerston could have slammed the phone down on its cradle she would have done. Perhaps, fortunately, you couldn’t make the same gesture with a mobile phone.
She wondered why her senior officers were so keen to call her into the Violent and Serious Crime Unit’s office. It surely wasn’t because Denise Palmerston valued her assistance on a case; her tone revealed her discomfort at that prospect. So why had DCI Sloane taken the initiative of bringing her in? That presumably was the cause of the DS’s anger – having to accede to her boss’ request. Jasmine wasn’t looking forward to facing the female detective again but she was intrigued enough by the case and the reasons for her recall to want to find out more. She pulled on her boots, put on her old puffer jacket, grabbed her bag, dropped her phone in it and was about to open the door when she remembered the electric fire. It had been blasting out heat on full power now for a couple of hours and she had got used to the comfort. She turned the fire off knowing that the flat would be cold when she returned but did not want to deplete her meagre funds.
She got into the red Fiesta and turned the ignition key. She was always grateful when the engine started but was not sure how she could perform as a private detective, which would presumably mean a lot of time spent on the streets, with the battered old Ford. At least it was pretty undistinguished and she could not foresee being able to afford a newer model until her income grew, if ever.
It took just a few minutes to drive into the centre of town and to pull into the police station carpark. That action felt both familiar and strange – it wasn’t something she had expected to be doing after walking out a couple of weeks ago. She tried to feel confident as she entered the building and strode passed the desk.
Sgt Gorman glared at her and growled, ‘I thought you weren’t coming back.’
‘Sorry to disappoint you GG but this is as unexpected for me as it is for you.’ Jasmine continued through the secure door without a hesitation. She climbed the stairs to the unit office and only paused, for just a moment, as she pushed the door open. There was a small group of people standing around the whiteboard, the sign that a case conference was taking place. Tom Shepherd turned his head, saw her and smiled. He drew himself up to his full two meters plus height and nodded for her to come and join him. The other two male officers, Derek Kingston and Terry Hopkins, like Tom were facing DS Palmerston who was at the board.
‘Ah, we have Detective Constable Frame,’ Palmerston said. ‘We are pleased to see you, aren’t we gentlemen.’ Her tone revealed the exact opposite but Kingston responded with a smile towards her. Hopkins managed to hide any emotion at her reappearance. ‘Come and join us and give us the wisdom of your experience,’ Palmerston continued in the falsely gracious voice. Jasmine took her place beside Tom, and undid the zip on her jacket. She wasn’t going to make it look as though she had slipped comfortably back into her old environment, but it was warm in the office.
‘We were going over the facts in the case,’ the DS explained. ‘We have a body with no clothes or means of identification so our first problem is finding out who this woman was.’
Jasmine half raised her right hand as if in a classroom. ‘Um,’ she muttered to draw attention to herself while wondering if she needed to or even desired it.
‘Yes, DC Frame,’ Palmerston’s eyes glared at her as if wishing to strike her dead for daring to interrupt. ‘You have a contribution to make.’
‘Yes,’ Jasmine said, ‘I don’t know how much has been reported about the body, but I don’t think the deceased was a woman.’
Palmerston’s eyebrows rose and her cheeks took on a pink tinge. Jasmine felt, rather than saw, the three men stiffen beside her. They were either expecting the DS to explode in rage or had been jerked out of their complacency by her words.
Denise Palmerston spoke softly and slowly, ‘I know you were suffering from the early stages of hypothermia at the time, DC Frame, but I am sure that you in particular might have noticed that the body lacked a penis. In fact, she has, according to the pathologist, the complete female genitalia – vulva, vagina and clitoris. But of course, you don’t consider them a necessary part of being a woman do you.’
The three male officers squirmed. Jasmine told herself to remain calm. To have made such a blatant reference to her pre-op transsexual status Palmerston was obviously going to the limit to incite her.
‘Yes, I did observe that, ma’am,’ Jasmine said equally quietly and carefully, ‘I also observed that the body had had a double mastectomy. Coupled with the short hair and a hint of beard growth I suggest that the person was a transitioning transman, a female to male transsexual.’
‘There are other reasons for having a mastectomy,’ Palmerston’s voice had risen a few tones. ‘Cancer for example. She was a woman.’
Jasmine took a deep breath. ‘We have different viewpoints,’ she said, ‘but I think the possibility that I suggested should be taken into consideration when seeking the i.d.’
‘I think DC Frame has a point.’
The three men and Jasmine turned to see the speaker, DCI Sloane, standing in the doorway of his office as imposing as ever in his three-piece grey suit.
Sloane went on, ‘I think you should take the possibility that this person presented as a male in planning the investigation.’ He turned around and returned to his office. Jasmine wondered how much he had been listening to the exchange between her and Palmerston.
The DS sniffed, shook her head and pulled herself upright. ‘We shall use all the evidence available to identify the victim and determine what and who caused her death.’

…………………..to be continued.

 

 

Jasmine in Viewpoint

Too much news. After the excitement of the unexpected election result the last three days have been filled with the horror of Grenfell Tower. After all the posturing about security and fighting terror, one inexcusable fire has killed more people than have died in all the terrorist attacks in the UK since 7/7 in 2005 and probably scared people living in similar tower blocks far more. Will the government be as keen  to name those responsible for this un-natural disaster as they are the terrorists? Was it austerity or simply a lack of concern that saw so many immigrants housed in what was so obviously a fire-trap.

Perhaps, after a calamity of this nature, brought on ourselves, it is even harder to say that life must go on than after a mindless act of terror but we must. We need real leadership, not empty words, to hack through the lies and obfuscation to sort out the real priorities for this country – not meaningless demands for sovereignty and taking back control that has long since been handed to overseas and multinational corporations, not putting more money in the pockets of the rich or into pointless vanity projects like Trident, but using the remaining  resources of the country to help all its inhabitants.

That’s enough politicking. Last week saw the end of the Leominster Festival following the Bookfair on the Grange. It wasn’t the big sales drive that I hoped for (but didn’t expect) so now I am on the look out for marketing opportunities for my work – both the Jasmine Frame transgender/crime stories and the September Weekes fantasy novels. I have to get busy.

WP_20170616_16_16_42_ProAs promised last week, I have started the next Jasmine Frame prequel. Started being the operative word as a bit of research and planning was necessary before I could get writing. A short first episode follows of Viewpoint. It is set just a week or two after the end of Perspective, which took place towards the end of 2011. This I think will be the last prequel to fit in the time-gap before the events of the first novel Painted Ladies so I’ve got to be careful that it all matches up. Anyway, here it is.

 

 

 

 

 

Viewpoint: part 1

Rain water mixed with sweat dripped from Jasmine’s nose. She looked down at her running shoes, muddy from splashing through puddles on the towpath and was grateful that she had chosen to wear her older pair this morning. The dark oak gates of Renham lock loomed through the December morning drizzle. She glanced at her watch pleased with her time for completing the two-mile run out from her flat in Kintbidge. Her heart was beating a little faster but she felt strong today, for a change, and eager for the return.
She turned and glanced out across the rain spattered water of the canal. Something bobbing in the water caught her eye, something white, smooth and round. An inflated plastic bag perhaps? No, it was bigger than that. She peered through the veil of drizzle. A dead sheep? You didn’t get those very often on this stretch of water. She rubbed away the water dripping from her forehead and stepped to the edge of the bank to look more closely. There were limbs attached to the main body of the object but they didn’t seem like the legs of an animal. Her heart thumped. A body.
Jasmine paused only to undo her bumbag and drop it on the grass beside the towpath. She stepped off the bank. Her feet sank into the ooze but only up to her calves. The water was cold, icy even. She waded out. The canal got deeper with each step. She knew it was V-shaped in profile but the water only came up to her waist when she reached the body. She could see now it was a person not an unfortunate farm animal. She took hold of an arm. It was as cold as the water. She towed it with her as she struggled back through the water and mud to the side of the canal. Her legs were feeling heavy and numb; the cold penetrating to her bones. She let go of the body and placed both hands on the bank. It took all her strength to haul herself out of the water.
She crouched on the waterside, breathing deeply, shivering, and reached down to grab the arm of the body. Thoughts from her police training passed through her head. Evidence. Make sure that no evidence is destroyed. Don’t contaminate what could be a crime scene. But she had to get the body, the person, out of the water. She hauled on the arm; pushed herself upright; staggered back. The body rose from the water, a dead weight.
Jasmine fell backwards, sprawled across the wet grass. She released her grip. The body fell into the mud on the bank, its feet still dangling in the water. She panted, exhausted by the effort, shaking all over now as the wet and the cold penetrated to her core. Jasmine crawled to the edge reached out across the surface of the water and grabbed the leg of the body. She tugged it to land, the body twisting to lie parallel to the canalside.
She scrambled away from the cadaver to where her bumbag had dropped. Her frozen fingers fumbled with the zip but at last she took out her phone. She stabbed the 9 button three times.
‘Hello? Police please. Renham lock. Sorry, there’s not much signal here. On the canal, west of Kintbridge. No, I don’t think an ambulance will be needed, just a pathologist.’

………………to be continued.

Jasmine is considering

After a couple of weeks of idyllic holiday it is difficult to get back into routine, especially when there is so much to make one want to just curl up again – I won’t say what.  One thing did concern me. It was a report in the news over a week ago about the transwoman who committed suicide while in a male prison. I was concerned to read that she was only 19 and had been living as female since the age of 10.  But, and this is what got to me, she had little idea of what being transsexual means and had had no advice, medical or otherwise to help her transition. Despite all the publicity in recent years about various trans people, she still felt isolated and did not know where to go for help. She had not even begun to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate, probably because she had not started any authorised medical treatment.

My understanding is that you do not need to go through surgery or even drug treatment to get a GRC but you do have to have a medical opinion that you are gender dysphoric. I have also heard that your mental state is taken into consideration. You can get to a sort of Catch 22 situation where if you are mad i.e. have mental health issues, you can’t get a GRC while a lot of people consider wanting to change gender a sign of madness.

This woman obviously had issues as she was convicted of crimes and sent to prison. What is appalling is that she received no care from the authorities that were responsible for her welfare while in custody. It also shows that there is still a lack of information about being trans available to the general public, despite the heap of material on the internet. We may be just 1% of the population but that just makes it that much more difficult for people who need help to make contact with those that can provide it. It also shows that the majority of people have a poor grasp of gender issues and do not understand how to help someone who is struggling to come to terms with their gender identity.

………………

IMGP5962I have a busy two or three weeks coming up so a new Jasmine novella will be on hold for a bit longer. In the meantime I’ll continue with other short stories I have stored away (there are lots).  This week I have a recent SF story I wrote (somewhat hurriedly) for a competition.  It didn’t get anywhere which I’m not surprised about.  I think it reads more like a synopsis than a short story.  It is also a familiar theme – colonisation of the Moon – but I hoped I had an original slant. Anyway, here it is.

Life on the Moon

The dark sky. That’s what surprised me most when I got here. I spent lots of time staring at the sky back home. There wasn’t much else to do lying in a cot. I watched the clouds move, that’s all. Then they gave me the neuro-interface. Here, on the Moon’s surface with my suit working at one hundred percent to keep me cool and my visor filter at maximum, the sun’s still too bright to look at directly and yet the sky is black. Yeah, that’s what tells me I’m on the Moon. It’s not the lower gravity, that’s just a pleasure. The weight on my chest is less and my useless muscles don’t have to work so hard.
The thing is they didn’t mention it during training. I suppose those career guys who’d been up to orbit lots of times didn’t think of it. Perhaps they weren’t allowed the time to just stare out of the windows of the space station. Me, well, when I’m turned away from the Sun and see all the stars on that black background it still takes my breath away. That’s probably not a good way of putting it. A break in my breathing would set off all sorts of warning alarms and have the monitor reprimand me for wasting time – time we haven’t got.
I’m outside for almost all my ten-hour shift, keeping an eye or more accurately a few brain cells, on the drills and the rock shifting kit, making small adjustments here and there, occasionally taking control of the waldos and really moving stuff. I love it. I feel useful for the first time in my life. Useful and important.  When I hand over to one of the others I feel as if I’m giving up a part of my body. In some ways, I am.
Yesterday, when I got back from my shift there was a celebration going on. Li told me all about it. We’re friends. She’s so like me; in abilities if not looks or personality. The fuss was over the completion of Cavern 1. Now they can start filling it with all the kit they’ve been hauling up from Earth. That gear will make this place self-sufficient in water, oxygen, metals, and lots of other stuff. The bosses were pleased because the hole was dug ahead of schedule and that was all down to our team.
Soon we’ll finish Cavern 2. It’ll be great to start filling it with the permanent living quarters. The temporary surface pods are cramped and there’s always the chance of a meteor puncturing the skin. The next bunch to come up from Earth will find their cosy apartments all ready for them.  By then the bio domes should be producing real food. I’m looking forward to having something to chew on instead of the concentrated, dried, pre-cooked mush we get from Earth. Once we’ve got our own food supply we can really start calling ourselves colonists.
Some of the guys talk about going home when we’ve finished the heavy work. Not me. Why should I go back to that gravity-well where I can’t move a muscle and I’m treated like a dependent waste of space? Here I’m free and a respected member of the gang. I’d happily see out my life working as a farmer or extending the caverns. Li feels the same. We may pair up and take a shared apartment in Cavern 2; maybe even have kids. I wonder if they would be like us?
Anyway, who really wants to go back to Earth now? It’s not exactly a pleasant place to be these days. The guys who want to go back have family down there so perhaps that gives them a reason. There’s no one down there who wants me back, not when getting food and staying alive is such a struggle, even for people who have the use of their own limbs.
I saw a meteor today. You don’t see them very often because there’s no atmosphere for them to streak through. It caught my eye, well, my camera lens, when it reflected the sunlight. A brief flicker, then it was gone. Thinking about it, perhaps it wasn’t a meteor after all. It wasn’t moving fast enough. Some of the states on Earth don’t like what we’re doing and have threatened to lob a bomb at us. One or two of them still have the capability. That’s why we’re on the “other side” facing away from Earth. Some of the guys are upset that we don’t have a view of Earth but I don’t care. I don’t want to see what we’ve done to that place, or let the bad guys down there have a good view of what we’re doing.
………………..
It was a missile. Li told me that someone she knows in admin said that our defences took it out before it got anywhere near. They’re not expecting many more as they’ve started lobbing nukes at each other down there. That should take their minds off us. Mind you the chances of us getting more supplies look pretty slim. Just like the chances of some of the guys going home.  I’ll just get on with my job managing the machines fitting out Cavern 2. I’m a builder now not a digger.
…………………
That’s it. We’re on our own. The multi-nationals who were behind us don’t exist anymore, like their customers, or most of them anyway. Admin have cut our rations to tide us over until the first crops are ready in a few weeks. It’ll be tough but I don’t need much to eat.
Chatting to Li, she thinks that the company bosses knew this was going to happen. That was why there was such a rush to get the colony set up. She says they used up all their capital to move as much stuff up here as possible in the time that was left. They had to do it without the governments noticing as otherwise their resources would have been commandeered for the patriotic wars.
……………………..
Li and I moved into our new home today. It’s on floor 6, two hundred meters below the surface but handy for the elevators. We’ve got more room than we expected because there’s no more people coming up from down below.  We celebrated with a special dinner – a tube of protein paste saved from yesterday’s ration, re-hydrated rice and a fresh lettuce from our first crop.  Food may be short still, but we’re nice and cosy down here and the solar energy collectors on the surface are 100% as it’s mid-moon day. We selected a view of the surface for our video-screen. Some of the others have selected scenes of Earth relayed by the satellite. I don’t know how they can look at that spoiled place now. It’s not the blue, white and green globe it used to be but a dirty brown ball.
………………….
We had boiled egg today. Okay, Li and I had to share it, but it was a real egg; shell and everything. We spent as much time looking at it as eating it. I had no idea that we’d brought chicken embryos up with us. Once we got the bio pods up the chicks were incubated. Now they’re hens and laying.  We had bread with the egg; real bread made from grain grown in the bio pods. Food is still rationed, probably always will be, but we’re self-sufficient.  Li and I talked about raising a kid. Of course, we can’t actually make a baby by ourselves, not us two, but we’re going to have a chat with the meds.
……………………
We’re going to be a mum and dad!  I supplied the sperm and Li the egg and the cybermeds did the rest. Nine months’ time we’ll have a daughter called Selene. We decided against gen-eng so she’ll be like Li and me. Admin agreed to it. In fact, they suggested it. They need our brains but being immobile we don’t need as much food as the ables. Selene won’t be the first child. Dmitri and Makena are having theirs the traditional way, a few weeks sooner. Admin were delighted. Without the extra people that were expected from Earth we’re a small number. Now that the food situation is easing, they want more mouths to feed, and hands and brains to do the work.
……………………..
I’ve got a new job.  Admin have patched me into the colony’s mainframe. I’m making sure that all the systems are running to plan. I look after the farmbots in the bio pods, energy generation, the foundries extracting metals and making plastics, the water and oxygen extractors, life support, everything really. It’s not just me of course. Li does a shift and there are others like us.  I wonder if the guys who designed the neuro-interface that give us a life, guessed that one day we’d be running the first colony on the Moon. Okay, it’s probably the last as well, but we have a future, which is more than those poor folks on Earth have got.
………………………..
It’s a good job that we can override the default settings. A few of the guys who couldn’t go home to Earth got a bit upset. I had to cut their oxygen. They won’t cause any more problems.
I love this job. It means that I’m on the surface any time I like, looking out through the cameras on the bio pods, the solar collectors and the communications towers. I can see the ragged ridge that surrounds our crater, the grey dust that’s now criss-crossed with the tracks of our machines and I can look up and see the stars in that black sky.
………………………………

Jasmine takes a break

It’s Easter – time for the first big rush of the year to the holiday resorts.  Last week there was a storm in a chocolate teacup about the use of the term “Easter” followed by the words bunny, egg, treasure hunt etc. Apparently leaving out the “Easter” was a denial of our Christian heritage and of being a sop to people of other religions. I didn’t follow the convoluted arguments closely but I did not notice any reference to what Christians actually celebrate at Easter. Not that there many that do.  The cars clogging the roads are filled with people just looking forward to a good time over the extended weekend; the religious significance means little.  Similarly I find little religious significance in the Easter bunny or chocolate eggs although of course any priest worth his/her cassock can find significance in anything. Rabbits and eggs recall the spring fertility festivals that predate the Christian era. Early Christians struggled to replace these joyous occasions with the sacred Easter celebrations but ended up adopting many of their symbols and traditions. Now it is largely just an early spring break.

Does it matter to our national identity what we call this weekend? I don’t think it so.  It is some years since the late spring bank holiday replaced Whitsun/Pentecost in the national consciousness and that doesn’t seem to have caused the world to end.  Let those who want to mark the religious occasion do so, and let the rest enjoy a few days of holiday, but don’t persist in attaching religiously charged words like Easter to secular money-spinning products and activities.

…………………………

IMGP5761Talking of breaks. Jasmine is still having one while I get on with Molly’s Boudoir but don’t forget that all three Jasmine Frame novels are available in paperback and e-book.

Instead of a Jasmine episode here is something else “what I wrote”.  This short piece was knocked off for a writing group meeting.  Although it was apparently not that long ago I cannot remember the task we set ourselves. It could have just been the start, “There was a boat. . .”. I am sure you will recognise the setting and the theme as incorporating both environmental and political issues. I hope you like it.

 

There was a boat . . .

There was a boat that rested, listing, on a shore that had not experienced the kiss of waves for a generation. Yuri entered through the jagged hole made to remove the diesel engine and all the metal fittings. He stretched his young legs to clamber up the lopsided wooden ladder. Sunlight made jagged stripes on his face and body as it streamed through the gaps in the wind-shrunken timbers. The boat would no longer float if the sea returned, not that that was likely to occur. Yuri reached the narrow bridge, held himself upright by hanging on to the wheel and looked out of the dirt-covered, cracked window. The barren sea-bed stretched to meet the brown sky at the distant horizon. Yuri was alone with his boat.  Alone with his thoughts and memories.
Yuri’s father had seen the approaching vehicles shrouded in their clouds of dust and exhaust fumes. He had sent Yuri to his hiding place above the ceiling of their shack. There Yuri peered through the gaps in the boards. He saw the battered four-by-four pickups draw up around their little house and the bearded men with the guns and blades get out. They crowded into the one room and demanded things of his father. Things he did not have. Yuri didn’t recognise the men but they had been before. Last time they had taken his mother in exchange for his father’s life, taken her Yuri did not know where. Now he lay on the boards listening to his father argue and plead. The men shouted and then his father had made one last sound; a brief shriek that cut off abruptly.
There was more noise as the men smashed up the hut with the butts of their guns, then they left, laughing and hailing a god Yuri did not know. Their vehicle engines spluttered into life and they were gone.  Yuri waited just in case the men returned but after many minutes of silence except for the whispering wind, he crept from his hiding place.
Yuri’s father was sprawled on the floor, the blood from his almost severed neck soaking into the earth. His guts spread across floor, stinking, already attracting buzzing flies. Yuri took a single glance and left the home he had shared with his father, mother, baby sister and grandfather. They were all gone now. He was alone. He went to the only other place he knew – the boat.
The sun turned red and bloated and sank below the featureless horizon. Yuri remained standing watching. The sky darkened and the stars came out, so many stars that Yuri couldn’t comprehend their number. Though the long-dried out, wind-scoured bed of the former sea was as dark as dark could be, the sky was bright with the stars.
Yuri gripped the wheel and turned it to port and starboard. He was sailing, not the fish-filled waters that the boat had navigated with his grandfather at the wheel, but the heavens, like the cosmonaut who he was named for who had died decades before he was born. In his boat of dreams Yuri soared among the stars and planets, visiting places where there were foods and drinks he had heard about but never tasted, seeing animals and plants that he was told existed away from the poisoned shores of the dried-up sea, and meeting his father and mother and sister and relatives and friends that once had inhabited the shore which was home. Upon the starry main, he found peace and happiness.
The boat remained at its mooring. Its keel broken as it slumped into the dust. Its timbers crumbled and the atoms of the wood and of Yuri mingled and were sucked into the air. At last, Yuri sailed away on the wind that blew across the waterless sea.

Jasmine -new novel

People are arriving at the Ashmore Lodge Hotel for a weekend of transgender fun. A body is discovered. Jasmine Frame is asked to join the gathering, incognito, to seek out the killer. Time is short and she finds she has to face her own gender prejudices as well as a host of motives for murder.

Layout 1The 3rd Jasmine Frame novel, The Brides’ Club Murder is now available on Amazon Kindle (if you’re in the UK go here). It’s a classic murder mystery with a transgender slant.

The paperback version will be available very soon (in the UK) at £9.99 (inc. p&p).  Send your order  to paintedladiesnovel@btinternet.com . Details of payment methods will be made by reply (cheque, Paypal or bank transfer).

Special offers

For 48 hours from 8 a.m. Sat. 4th March, the 2nd Jasmine Frame novel, Bodies By Design isLayout 1 for sale at under half price in the UK and US. (here  for UK buyers)

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Purchasers of the paperback version of The Brides’ Club Murder will receive a free copy of Painted Ladies, the 1st in the series. (or have £1 off if you say you do not need another copy).

Painted Ladies front cover jpeg

Don’t forget that there are also two novellas available as e-books – Discovering Jasmine and Murder In Doubt.

discovering jasmine final coverMurder in doubt cover

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And so on with the current Jasmine Frame story, Darkroom. We’ve reached episode 6. Warning – this passage contains violent scenes.

Darkroom: Part 6

Jasmine squinted and held her hand up to shield her eyes. She couldn’t see the speaker. The powerful light dazzled her and she felt unsteady. Her heart rate increased, readying her for flight but she wasn’t prepared for the fist that slammed into the side of her head. She staggered, felt the low arm of a sofa against her knee and fell full length on to the soft vinyl-covered cushions. Before she could use her hands to push herself up, a knee thrust into the small of her back. She twisted her head, gasping for breath. Her right cheek bone throbbed. The light was somewhere behind her but she still couldn’t see her attacker. Her wrists were grabbed and dragged behind her back. She felt a cord being tied around them, pulled tight. She cried with pain.
‘Cry all you like,’ the voice said from behind her head. ‘You can’t be heard with all that row outside.’ With an extra shove into the sofa she was released from the weight. She shuffled her legs around until she could sit up with her arms bound behind her. The figure in the shadows holding the torch was returning from the door to the room. Jasmine guessed that she was now locked in with him.  She trembled but made herself breathe slowly and deeply to calm her fear. The light approached again, the bearer lost in the darkness. The focus of the torch moved away from her eyes, travelling down her body. It passed up and down as if scanning her as his eyes no doubt were.
‘A pretty thing, aren’t you,’ he said in that same soft, confident voice. ‘Quite the fashion kitten too with that dress. But I bet underneath it all there’s a cock. After all, why else would you be here.’
The light came closer, dazzling her eyes again. A hand gleamed pinkly as it reached out towards her legs. He was wearing latex gloves. Jasmine tried to wriggle herself further back onto the sofa, squeezing her knees together. The hand landed on her right knee, gripping it, then pushing between her thighs. She resisted, clamping her muscles against the questing fingers.
‘Now darling, there’s no point resisting,’ he said. ‘You can make this easy for yourself or you can get hurt.’
She half relaxed, as if accepting his reasoning. She was thinking hard but unsure what to do. She wasn’t going to let him do to her what he did to Diana. The hand moved higher up her thigh. The torch was lowered to the floor and the right hand joined the left between her legs. Jasmine allowed herself a smile. Through the red spots in front of her eyes, she now could see the silhouette of the man bending over her, inching closer as his hands continued their exploration of her smooth thighs.
‘Oh, that’s a pity,’ he said in a voice that oozed disappointment. ‘Why aren’t you wearing stockings? Don’t all you trannies like sexy undies?’
Both hands progressed up the legs of her tights. Now he was astride her, leaning over her. She could feel his breath on her face and a smell of mint. The hands reached her groin.
‘All tucked away are we? You’re making life difficult. Oh well, if needs must.’
The hands withdrew from her private place and parted, moving over the top of her thighs. They slid around her hips reaching up for the waistband of her tights. Jasmine waited, holding her breath. His fingers slipped inside the stretched elastic. For a moment he was trapped. This was her moment.
She raised her left knee, fast. It made contact between his legs, encountering something soft. He let out a gasp and his head lowered. Pushing against her bound arms with all the force she could summon, Jasmine swung her head forward. Her forehead contacted his nose. She heard it crack, as he let out a cry and fell forward. She twisted to the side and they rolled together along the sofa, his hands still locked in her knickers; but she was on top now. In the dim light cast from the torch that lay on the floor, she saw his head below her. She arched her back and brought her forehead down on his nose again. This time there was a satisfying squishy noise of bone and tissue being mashed together.  He grunted.
Jasmine brought her right knee up between them and forced herself away from him. His hands were dragged from her hips. She slipped onto the floor, rolled away and rose to her feet. She was panting and her forehead felt sore. He was struggling up from the sofa, one hand protecting his battered face, the other reaching out for her.
‘You’ve had it now.’ His voice was different now. Speaking nasally through the pain of his ruined nose, he was angry. He lurched to his feet.
Jasmine kicked the torch away. It spun around illuminating the floor and bottoms of the furniture. It was light enough to see her attacker staggering, zombie-like towards her.  She took a step back out of his reach and launched a kick.  The pointed toe of her shoe stabbed into his groin. As her foot withdrew, he groaned again and fell forward. She helped him down with a stamp to his back with her narrow heel. He hit the hard, rubber floor with his ruined face. Jasmine swung and launched a final kick at his head. There was a final groan and he lay still.
Jasmine stood still breathing heavily, looking down at him.
‘That’s for what you did to Diana,’ she muttered. She turned and walked towards the door. Turning her back she felt for the door handle with her tied-together hands. Below the knob was the key which he had not had the foresight to remove. She had to twist her body until she could get the leverage to unlock the door and then turn the handle. She pulled the door open and ran into the next room.
‘Help me,’ she cried, ‘I’ve been attacked.’
Several bodies stirred in the shadows. Movement revealed naked limbs, buttocks, faces and other parts of bodies. Eyes widened as their owners observed her.
‘What’s that, love?’ a deep voice said. It was owned by a tall, slim figure in a sparkling silver dress that just about covered her genitalia.
‘Help me, please,’ Jasmine repeated. ‘My hands are tied.’ She turned to reveal her bound wrists.
‘What the fuck?’ the TV said approaching her. She bent down and fiddled ineffectually with the knots. Others joined her, leaning in to examine her.  A few knives of various types and sizes appeared from handbags. One was used to start sawing at her bonds.
‘What happened, darling?’
‘Is that your blood on your face?’
‘Where is he?’
‘Is there BDSM in that room?’
The voices were all round her. She strained against the bindings.
‘Quickly please. He’s in there.’
Her hands came free. She felt her shoulders relax as she brought her hands to her front and she rubbed the wrists. She pushed herself through the crowd around her and ran back to the door to the room where she had been attacked. Taking the key from the lock, she closed the door and turned the key on the other side, locking the room with him still in it.
Jasmine held the key between her fingers thinking she would drop it into her bag, then realised that she didn’t have it, or her phone. It must be somewhere inside the room with the sex maniac.
She turned and ran across the room. The occupants stood and stared.
‘I’ve got to find Angela and Debs,’ she said to no-one in particular.  She found a door that opened onto the dance hall. The noise of the music knocked her back but she saw a figure in a long gown and towering wig standing on the stage roaring into a microphone – the live entertainment. The floor around the stage was packed. Jasmine forced her way between the hot, sweaty bodies of the clubbers dancing and swaying to the singing and hollering their appreciation of the drag artiste.
She reached the stage and saw the golden silhouette of Debs standing beside a tower of loudspeakers.  She pushed through the crowd until she was at Debs’ side. The compere stared at her.
‘I’ve got him,’ Jasmine bellowed at her.
‘What?’ Debs roared back.
‘Diana’s attacker. He attacked me. I’ve locked him in one of the rooms.’
‘You’ve what?’
Jasmine leaned towards Debs and shouted directly into her ear.
‘The guy who attacked Diana is locked in a room.’
Debs mouth opened, stayed open for seconds then closed. She turned so her lips were against Jasmine’s ear.
‘Let’s deal with him.’  She grabbed Jasmine’s hand and dragged her off through the dancers. The crowd parted to let them through but they were heading towards the entrance and away from the quiet rooms.
‘Where are we going?’ Jasmine cried out.
‘To collect my security guys.’
…………………… to be continued.

Jasmine feels her guilt

Well, we’re a week into the new year and the sky hasn’t fallen yet. However, Brexit hasn’t even begun yet and Trump isn’t President for a week or two, so it’s a bit soon to feel confident. Anyway, let’s ignore the world situation and concentrate on my plans.

First of all, you will find below, the final episode of Falloff. This has been the latest of eleven novella-length (some longer than others) prequel to Painted Ladies. As prequels, these stories are all set in the time before or during James Frame’s career as a police officer and his relationship with Angela. During this period he moves from being uncertain about his/her gender to starting his transition  to the woman Jasmine has become to believe herself to be. Falloff, incidentally is the first Jasmine Frame story I have written that takes place outside the UK.

Two of the novellas have been published (after considerable editing) as Discovering Jasmine and Murder In Doubt. I would love to publish the other nine, perhaps as separate e-books or packaged as an omnibus, but that will have to wait for the funds to appear.

There will soon be a third novel to purchase though. The Brides’ Club Murder is now in production  and will be out shortly. There’ll be more news very soon.

I have outline plots for two more Jasmine novels that will see her through the final (and most difficult) stages of her transition, but it will be a few years before I complete those. I will be writing more prequels as there are still time slots in James/Jasmine’s life to fit in a few more stories. However there may be a gap of a few weeks while I get on  with some other pressing work.

wp_20161228_15_25_50_proI have lived with Jasmine in my head for over fifteen years now and I have stated before that she is not me nor are her experiences mine. I think, that as a transgendered or gender-fluid person I have some idea of what a transsexual, such as Jasmine, feels while not necessarily sharing them. What I have learned over the last couple of decades is that the gender map is much more varied and complex than I or most people believe. Legal protection for all genders is a necessity.

Getting back to writing, I have another fantasy novel close to completion but whether it will be published is another unknown. I have various other small projects on the go and a desire to get down to an SF novel. Of course I will also be putting my thoughts on various matters that interest me, if no-one else, here That all means that 2017 is going to be a fascinating year – let’s hope we survive it.

 

Falloff: Part 10

She ran from the bedroom, heart pounding. She bounded down the stairs to the foyer and out onto the lawn beside the swimming pool. There, again, there was the body.  Gemma was lying face down, her legs twisted and her arms bent under her. Jasmine knelt by her side, leaned down and listened for breath. There was none. She felt for a pulse. There was none.
‘Ah, Seňor/Seňora Frame. Again, I find you beside the body of a young woman.’
Jasmine turned her head and saw the familiar pale beige trouser legs. She looked up to see Inspector Alvarez looking down at her. She opened her mouth to speak but nothing would come out.
‘I think we spoke earlier about a murderer returning to the site of his crime. I had not expected my words to prove to be so exact as this.’
Jasmine struggled to her feet and faced the policeman. ‘But I didn’t do this. I’m not the killer. She was.’ She pointed at the dead girl.
Alvarez nodded slowly. ‘Exactly. It was not you I was accusing, but maybe you can explain why you are once again the first on the scene.’ He examined her face, frowning, ‘and also, how you got that bruise on your face in the short time since we last spoke outside your room.’
Other people were arriving now, Angela and Carrie among them. A circle of onlookers formed around the body but no one approached closer than a couple of metres. It was obvious that nothing could be done for the girl.
Jasmine touched her tender cheek. ‘It was her, Gemma. She hit me before she jumped.’
Alvarez looked up. ‘She jumped from the balcony of the bedroom she shared with Seňorita Carrie?’
Jasmine nodded.
‘I presumed they were in their room,’ Alvarez said, ‘though they refused to answer my knock. I was about to return with a master key obtained from the manager. Did they open their door to you?’
‘No, I climbed over the balcony from our room,’ Jasmine said. Alvarez’s eyebrows rose, but he did not express any surprise.
‘Why did you do that?’
‘I could hear them having an argument or something.’
‘So you decided to intervene.’
‘Yes, I thought one of them was going to hurt the other.’
Alvarez frowned. ‘Just because they were arguing? Why did you leap to such a conclusion?’
‘Because I thought Carrie had killed Raquel.’
The inspector appeared confused. He looked down at the body, ‘But this is not Seňorita Carrie.’
‘No. I got it wrong.’
‘Hmm. Why did you suspect the other young woman?’
Jasmine sighed. She was at last going to have to reveal the piece of information she had withheld. She knew Alvarez was not going to be happy.
‘When I got to Raquel last night she wasn’t quite dead,’ she began, ‘She let out a breath which sounded a bit like she was trying to say a name.’
‘You didn’t tell me this earlier,’ Alvarez growled.
‘No, well, I wasn’t sure. It could just have been a sigh.’
‘What was it she might have said.’
‘I thought it sounded like “Car”.’
‘Car?’
‘When I discovered that her boyfriend, er, her ex-boyfriend, was called Carl, I thought it must have been him.’
‘You suspected that Seňor Carl killed Seňorita Raquel?’
‘Yes, but it couldn’t have been him as he was seen at the dance club.’
Alvarez nodded. ‘That is true. However, I don’t think you have finished the account of your investigation, Detective Frame.’ The sarcasm oozed from the policeman’s statement.  Jasmine felt embarrassed. Yes, of course she should have passed on what she had heard, or thought she heard.
‘I didn’t think any more of it until I learnt that one of Raquel’s girlfriends was called Caroline or Carrie.’
‘So you suspected her.’
‘Yes.’
‘When you crawled across the balcony, at considerable risk to your own safety, were your suspicions strengthened.’
‘No. I was surprised. It was Gemma abusing Carrie, not the other way around.’
‘Abusing?’
‘Gemma had Carrie on her knees and was pulling her hair. She was making her promise not say anything about Raquel.’
Alvarez nodded, ‘You intervened?’
Jasmine rattled out what had happened. ‘I pulled Gemma off Carrie. She fought like a hellcat but Carrie helped me. I thought we had Gemma calm after that but she broke free, lashed out at me and then leapt over the balcony.’  The words came to a shuddering halt as she surveyed the result of her intervention; the sprawled, lifeless body of the young woman on the grass.
‘Do you know the reason for these two deaths?’ Alvarez persisted.
‘It was my fault.’ It was Carrie’s sob-choked voice that answered.
Inspector Alvarez looked at her with sad eyes. ‘Ah, Seňorita. What do you have to tell us?’
Carrie stepped forward with Angela’s arms around her.  She glanced at the body then looked away but couldn’t raise her eyes to the policeman or Jasmine.
‘Raquel and I were lovers,’ she whispered.
Alvarez shrugged. ‘That may have displeased Seňor Carl, but why Seňorita Gemma?’
‘Because Gemma and I were also lovers.’
‘Ah, a love triangle of three young women,’ Alvarez said.
‘A love square with Carl as well,’ Jasmine added. Alvarez looked at her and shook his head.
‘I don’t think Seňor Carl had much say in what happened, eh, Seňorita?’
Carrie shook her head.
The Inspector took a deep breath. ‘I need to hear your story Seňorita but not here and not in front of this crowd.’
Jasmine looked around and was surprised to see how big the band of gawkers had got. Now though, uniformed police had arrived and Alvarez gave instructions for them to clear the onlookers and let the body be dealt with. He returned to take Carrie’s arm and started to lead her away. Over his shoulder, he addressed Jasmine.
‘I will be back to speak to you again in the morning. Whether you are Seňorita or Seňor Frame is up to you.’
It was another hot day with a cloudless blue sky, but James was in no hurry to leave the bedroom. He felt that hotel staff and guests would be looking at him, not so much because of his appearance as Jasmine the previous evening, but because of his involvement in the two deaths. Angela had gone down to the dining room and returned with breakfast croissants and fruit. Now they awaited the promised visit by Inspector Alvarez. They sat in the shade on their balcony.
There was a light tap on their door. Angela got up to open it and returned with the police officer. James noted that he wore the same suit and wondered whether the Inspector had managed to get out of it at all since their meeting in the night.  Angela offered him her seat on the balcony. Alvarez sat down and appeared to be grateful to have the rest. Angela went back into the bedroom.
‘Well, Seňor,’ Alvarez began, his voice betraying his fatigue, ‘we appear to have solved the two deaths. A murder and a suicide.’
James nodded. ‘That’s what I thought. But why?’
Alvarez shrugged. ‘I love women but I do not understand them, particularly young seňoritas and especially those who, ah, only love other seňoritas.’
‘Lesbian jealousy,’ Angela said, returning with a glass of iced water for the policeman. He took it, with a nod of gratitude and took a sip.
‘That is it,’ Alvarez said after a moment. ‘Seňoritas Raquel, Gemma and Carrie, were all lovers of each other with Gemma the dominant Seňora. When Carl appeared, Gemma’s control over Raquel was broken. Raquel was briefly in love with him but missed the tender caresses of Carrie. She, how do you say, “dumped” the boy and drew the girl into her arms, away from the manipulations of Gemma.’  He paused to take another cool drink before continuing. ‘The night before last, Raquel and Carrie returned early from the dancing. A short while later, after, I think, you had yourselves returned, Gemma came knocking. Raquel let her in. Gemma ordered Carrie to leave and then launched an assault on Raquel which ended with her fall from the balcony. She thought it would look like suicide but Raquel’s struggles to hold on damaged her fingertips and she also had Gemma’s skin under her finger nails.’
‘So you knew that Gemma was the killer,’ James said.
‘That information wasn’t given to me by our forensic officers until this morning.’
‘Too late,’ James said, shaking his head.
‘It may not have been too late if Seňorita Gemma’s bullying of Seňorita Carrie had not been exposed.’
James heard Alvarez’s words. Gradually understanding came.
‘You mean, if I hadn’t burst in on Gemma threatening Carrie, she wouldn’t have leapt off the balcony and you could have arrested her this morning.’
Alvarez nodded slowly, ‘Of course I may be wrong. Seňorita Carrie may have resisted Seňorita Gemma’s demands and violence may still have occurred, but. . .’ He shrugged.
James felt cold. His mouth sagged open. He was responsible for Gemma’s death.
Alvarez leaned towards him and placed a hand on his shoulder.
‘Do not be troubled, Police Officer Frame. The seňorita was unstable. She had, after all, killed Seňorita Raquel, who she had loved, or at least loved to dominate. As a detective, one learns that investigations can have unforeseen consequences.’
James stared at Alvarez. ‘But . . .’ he began but ran out of words. Alvarez held a finger to his lips.
‘No, Seňor. When you are a detective you will understand. Perhaps you will also learn that holidays with your delightful wife are not for investigating but for having fun, as Seňorita Jasmine perhaps.’
The End

 

 

 

 

 

Jasmine hears an alibi

Brrr…it’s a bit cold. Well, it is here in the UK although I don’t suppose -5C (night-time) counts as cold in some places.  One good result is that it has been clear and sunny during the days which has been wonderful (our solar panels have been generating a bit more than usual for this time of year). It was especially lovely when we visited Tenby in Pembrokeshire last week as you can see in the photos.

I wanted to be cheerful about something as otherwise I might come over as being depressed. The news from the US doesn’t get any better.  I still can’t say it – President Trrrrr, – I feel a bit like Kryten from Red Dwarf trying to lie.  The situation elsewhere isn’t, much better.  Perhaps a bright spot is Botswana.

We have been to see the film “A United Kingdom” about the marriage of Seretse Kama to Ruth Williams and his struggle to be recognised as King of Bechuanaland.  I won’t go into the full story but the lying and duplicity of the British governments, Labour and Conservative with their toadying to South Africa’s apartheid policy  in the late 1940s and 1950s was only balanced by the love and determination of the married couple. That they won and Seretse went on to become the first President of independent Botswana was wonderful. I may be wrong but it seems that Botswana is one of the few countries which having gained independence hasn’t later descended into corruption and factionalism. I wonder if it was because Bechuanaland was previously an independent kingdom and its borders weren’t dreamed up by western politicians.

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A selfie in the mirror.

Changing tack – the third Jasmine Frame novel is now heading for publication but here is the fifth episode of Falloff, the Jasmine Frame prequel.

Falloff – Part 5

‘Are you going to tell Alvarez?’ Angela said.
James frowned. ‘I’ve got no evidence that Carl killed Raquel,’ he said.
‘Except the girl’s final breath.’
James wondered why Angela was being sarcastic about Raquel’s dying word. He had a hunch.
‘Exactly. I’m sure she was trying to tell me something before she died and it looks like she was trying to say his name, but I can’t put Carl in the room when she fell.’
‘So forget it,’ Angela said, pulling off her t-shirt and shorts to reveal her bikini. ‘We’re on holiday, remember? I know Raquel’s death was a shock but it’s none of our business. Let’s do what we came here for, well some of it.’
‘What?’
‘Relax. There’s a pool down there in the sun and if we’re lucky there may be a couple of sunbeds beside it, still free.’  She grabbed her beach towel.
James stripped down to a pair of swimming shorts and picking up his own towel followed Angela from the room.
There were in fact just two unoccupied loungers left, side by side on the grass beside the pool.  James sat down and looked around at the young people enjoying themselves, soaking up the rays and splashing about in the pool. It wasn’t the same carefree atmosphere of the previous day. A few small groups were in conversation. James guessed that the night’s incident was still the burning topic of discussion.
Angela lay down beside him and closed her eyes. He looked at her body, naked but for the small triangles of cloth that barely covered her breasts and pubis. He adored her curves and her smooth skin. As he looked around he saw other young women similarly attired and felt a twist in his gut. It wasn’t lust but envy. He wished he had bodies like them. He wished he too was wearing a bikini with an hour-glass figure. As Jasmine, he had never dared to wear a one-piece swimsuit, let alone a bikini, as he was fully aware that his masculine figure was a giveaway, even without considering the bulge in his pants. Nevertheless, the desire to be like the bikini-clad young women was almost overpowering, along with the feeling of guilt. Angela was so accepting of Jasmine, apparently enjoying their nights on the dance floor as two girls but was unaware of the deeper urge that he felt. That was because he kept on denying it, asserting that Jasmine was another side of his personality, to the entirety of it.
James sighed, lay back and closed his eyes. He wanted to empty his mind and just soak up the sun (not for long, with his pale skin he would burn soon). He couldn’t do it; two sets of thoughts kept competing for his attention. The first was his gender identity, an ever-present dilemma; the second was the identity of Raquel’s killer. Who could have pushed her off the balcony even as she scrabbled to hold on? Carl? He seemed to fit the mould, but now James began to feel doubts. While he seemed unhappy about being questioned by the Inspector, again, his emotional response to Raquel’s death seemed to be one of confusion rather than guilt. Had Raquel really dumped him just a day into their holiday?
Her heard the familiar sound of regular breathing of someone asleep next to him. He opened his eyes and looked at Angela. Yes, she was asleep. He mustn’t drop off too and let her burn.  A young man and woman were walking along the side of the pool towards him. He pushed himself up on his elbows and examined them. They were two of Raquel’s companions.  They noticed him watching them, returned the gaze and then spoke to each other. They approached him.
The boy spoke. ‘You’re the guy who discovered Raquel aren’t you? In the room next door?’
James shielded his eyes from the sun. ‘Yes. You were with her weren’t you. We saw you all together at the airport.’
‘That’s right,’ the girl answered, ‘I think we saw you there too.’
James hauled himself upright from the lounger. ‘I’m James. My wife is Angela,’ He nodded to her sleeping form
‘I’m Andy and this is Jess.’  They shook hands.
‘I’m sorry about Raquel,’ James said.
A cloud came over the boy’s and girl’s face.
‘It’s awful,’ Jess said, ‘and it must have been dreadful for you, finding her.’
James nodded. ‘Hmm, yes. I guess you’re all upset, especially Carl?’
‘Carl? You know him?’ Andy’s query wasn’t one of surprise that James should know his name him but more a guarded, “why mention him” sort of question
‘We met him outside our room. We saw him and Raquel together at the airport.’
Jess glanced at Andy then spoke. ‘They were together then but not last night.’
‘Oh, what happened?’ James was eager to know but tried to make his question sound innocent.
Jess answered, ‘They had a huge bust-up yesterday morning after our first night clubbing. Raquel chucked him out of their room.’
‘What did they argue about?’
‘Oh, something stupid,’ Andy said with an attempt at a laugh, ‘Carl was looking at another girl. Raquel’s a bit edgy. Oh god, I didn’t mean that.’
Jess stroked his arm. ‘It’s alright, Andy. I keep forgetting she’s gone too. You’re right, she could go off on one.’
‘So, they weren’t together at El Danza last night?’ James asked, pushing for more evidence.
‘No. We all went there together although Carl and Raquel weren’t speaking to each other. I didn’t see Raquel again but Carl got hitched up with some other girl and was still there when we came back at three.’
‘You saw him?’
‘Yes.’
‘What about earlier, around two?’
Andy frowned. ‘Two o’clock. Was that when Raquel, er, fell.’
James shrugged as if he was not that interested. ‘Something like that.’
Jess nodded. ‘Yes, I saw him. It must have been about then. He had a hand inside the girl’s knickers.’
‘You’re very interested in it all,’ Andy said.
James tried to appear nonchalant but concerned; a difficult combination. ‘Yes, I suppose I am. It was a bit of shock to find her, you know. . .’
‘Of course,’ Jess said, ‘Come on Andy, let’s get out of this place. I can’t stop thinking of what happened while we’re here.’ She tugged on his arm.
‘Yes, okay.’ The boy allowed himself to be dragged away, ‘Thanks mate,’ he called back over his shoulder.
James turned back to his lounger and saw that Angela was awake.
‘What was all that about?’ she said.
‘Raquel’s friends giving Carl an alibi.’
‘Oh, how?’
‘Apparently, he was making out with another girl at the club while Raquel was falling from the balcony.’
‘So there goes one of your theories.’
James’ shoulders dropped, ‘I suppose so, but I still think she meant to say something.’
Angela stood up. ‘Well, instead of theorising I want to cool off. Let’s swim.’ She ran and jumped into the pool.

Jasmine warned

Are you offended?  Do you think you have the right not to be offended?  A few things have come my way this week which caused me to think about taking offence.  First of all an article by Eddie Mair in the Radio Times referred to those warnings you get before TV and radio programmes about language or nudity. In particular he was troubled by the warning before a talk show of “opinions which some viewers may find offensive”.  Mair questioned what these opinions might be and why he needed to be warned. Why did someone have to pre-guess what opinions listeners may be offended by?

Today I saw a clip on Facebook of an interview on American TV with one of Trump’s team. He didn’t care whether anyone was offended by anything that Trump or his supporters said.  He thought that for too long people who took offence have been pandered to and that in the Trump future people who had these feelings didn’t matter. This seemed to give a free-rein to racism, homophobia, etc.

Finally I saw a report of a BBC radio programme with Nick Grimshaw and David Walliams during which they played a game of trying to guess the gender of callers from their voice. Not surprisingly, trans people were offended that people’s gender should be questioned and ridiculed for the sake of a few minutes of entertainment. It might encourage people to point (and do worse) to people who didn’t fit their stereotypical view of male and female.

Penny ears

I hear no hate

I have often told people that I can’t be offended if they ask me questions about what it means to be trans. I don’t want people to be put off by the thought that I might be hurt because they don’t understand. I hope that by asking the questions they can learn, even if they use words or express opinions that I don’t agree with.

A lot is made of our right to freedom of speech (and freedom of the press). I have disagreed with attempts to deny certain people (for example radical feminists who deny that MtF transsexuals are women) a platform to express their ideas. So long as there is a debate and that both (or more) sides have a chance to give their opinions, backed up by explanation, then I am happy. What does annoy me, I might even say offends me,  is the wild sloganising that characterised the American election and the Brexit referendum; slogans with no basis in fact and often downright lies accepted as truth. I am worried that people in power in the USA, UK and elsewhere are feeling confident enough to spout baseless, hurtful opinions that can only be socially divisive.

I believe we have the right to give opinions. We do not have the right denigrate someone for their race, religion, abilities, sexuality, gender, gender identity, age or any other personal attribute. I believe we have the responsibility to back up our opinions with reason and fact. I believe we have the duty, not to feel offence, but to refute any opinions which we disagree with or which we think are harmful. If we do feel hurt and offended what people say it is not sufficient to simply complain about it, instead the offensive opinions must be opposed and answered.

There, that’s todays rant over. I hope you weren’t offended.

And now to part three of Falloff, the Jasmine Frame prequel. It’s July 2005,  Jasmine and Angela are on honeymoon, enjoying sun, sea, sand and dancing, but a death disturbs the peace.

Falloff: Part 3

James looked up into Angela’s face lit by the pale night-time light diffusing through the curtains. Her expression showed horror.
‘Murder?’ she said.
James pulled her down against him, wanting to hold her tight and feel secure.
‘Her nails must have got shattered fighting an attacker, and scrabbling to hold on to the balcony.’
‘That’s awful. Someone deliberately made her lose her grip and let her fall?’
‘It fits.’
‘But who? One of her group?’
‘They were in and out of each other’s rooms.’
Angela shook her head as far as she could while held in James’ arms. ‘But they seemed to be having a good time. They were all friends. Weren’t they?’
‘I wasn’t watching them closely enough to know, but they seemed okay with each other.’ He paused. ‘Mind you she was all over that big guy at the airport but I don’t remember seeing her actually with him yesterday.’
They were silent for a few minutes but James knew that Angela hadn’t fallen asleep.
‘What are you going to do?’ she said eventually.
‘What can I do? I’m just a visitor here on holiday as far as the Spanish police are concerned.’
‘But you could tell that detective, Alvarez, about her fingers.’
‘I’m sure he’ll have noticed them himself.’
They were quiet again until James had another thought.  ‘There was another thing though.’
‘What?’
‘She wasn’t dead when I got to her. She was still breathing and said something. Well, she made a sound.’
‘What kind of sound?’
‘Well, it may have been just a groan. It was very soft but it sounded like a name, or part of one.’
‘What name?’
‘Car.’
‘That’s something else for you to tell the detective.’
‘Hmm, yes, if he comes to question us again.’
They fell silent and while thoughts continued to pass through James’ mind, he drifted into sleep.
There were more people in the dining room for breakfast than there had been the previous day. For the late and all-night revellers, it was an unaccustomed gathering. Looking around the pale, tired faces and the quiet talk, James guessed that the news of the death had circulated and the young people wanted to discuss it, to make some kind of sense of the tragedy.   A few people who they had nodded to or spoken a few words to previously approached them and asked if they knew about the girl who had fallen. James and Angela nodded but he didn’t reveal his part in the discovery of the body or his suspicions.
The whispered speculations made James feel uncomfortable so after hurriedly eating a croissant and drinking a coffee they made a speedy return to their room.  As James bent to put the key in their lock a familiar voice spoke from behind him.
‘Ah, Seňor and Seňora Frame.’ It was Inspector Alvarez, the detective.
James straightened up and turned. The policeman’s eyes were heavy and his face a little more grizzled than it had been in the night, but he still seemed alert.
‘You have had breakfast perhaps?’ he continued.  James and Angela nodded. ‘And you slept well?’
‘No, not really,’ James admitted.
Alvarez nodded slowly, ‘Well, that is not a surprise. No doubt you were thinking about the girl. Your neighbour.’
‘Yes,’ James said wondering when the policeman was going to get to the point.
‘I am sorry your holiday has been affected by this incident.  May I see in your room please?’
‘Of course,’ James replied. He pushed the door open and invited the detective to step inside. He and Angela followed.
James watched as Alvarez scanned the room. He eyes paused on the unmade bed.  I bet he’s wondering if we had sex after returning to bed last night, James thought. His eyes moved on to the two dresses and sets of female underwear still lying scattered on the floor. Then Alvarez went to the window, pushed the curtain to the side and stepped through the open door onto the balcony.
‘You had the door open when you were in bed last night?’ he asked.
‘Yes,’ Angela replied. ‘The room was still hot when we got back but there was a nice breeze blowing.’
‘There’s no air conditioning in the room,’ James explained.
‘Ah, Hotel Arena is not expensive,’ Alvarez said.
‘That’s right,’ James agreed wondering what the point was.
‘So affordable for young people with not a lot of money, Right?’
James shrugged, ‘Yes, that’s why we booked it.’
Alvarez turned and stepped to the rail around the balcony. He looked to the left from where the girl had fallen and then leant over to look at the ground. He turned around and returned to the bedroom.
‘You said you heard a cry and then a thud.’
‘I did,’ Angela said.
‘I didn’t notice it. Angela told me,’ James added.
‘Because your concentration was on other things,’ Alvarez said without a smile.
‘I suppose so,’ James said not wanting to go into details. Was the guy being voyeuristic?
‘But you didn’t hear anything else from the room next door?’
‘I don’t know,’ Angela said, ‘Nothing that caught my attention.’
‘There were all sorts of noises. Like now,’ James said. They all froze listening to the sounds that surrounded them. There was traffic noise from the road along the seafront, and from people around the pool. There were sounds of conversations, of taps running, of loos being flushed, of beds creaking from rooms above and below and to the right of their room.
‘Even in the middle of the night?’ Alvarez said.
‘Yes. You know that lots of the people were coming back from the clubs at all hours, partying in their rooms, and the traffic never stops.’
Alvarez nodded. ‘The walls are thin.’
James recalled the noises from their first night, the rhythmic thumping of a mattress above them as a couple had vigorous intercourse.
‘It’s a cheap hotel,’ James repeated.
Alvarez cocked his head to one side and looked at Angela. ‘So why did you notice the cry the girl made as she fell and the thud as she hit the ground?’
Angela’s mouth dropped open. ‘Um, I don’t know. I suppose they were different types of sound.’
The detective nodded, ‘The cry that escaped the girl’s lips as she lost her balance and the impact of her landing would have a different quality to the more familiar sounds.’
‘That’s the reason,’ James said a little more forcefully than he intended. He couldn’t decide whether Alvarez was doubting them.  The policeman gave him a thin smile.
‘Let us see if you can remember more. Sit down please, Seňor, Seňora.’  James and Angela sat side by side on the edge of the bed. Alvarez eased himself into one of the two small armchairs by the window.
‘Now, you arrived back in the room before most of the other guests.’
‘Yes.’ James agreed, ‘We were still a bit tired and not up for really late night dancing.’
‘Ah, you like the dancing to the music the clubs play.’
‘It’s one of the things we like doing together,’ Angela said. James caught her eyeing the crumpled dresses they had each worn.
‘So you came back and got into bed?’  James and Angela nodded. ‘But you didn’t fall asleep?’
James answered. ‘No. We weren’t quite that exhausted and it is our honeymoon.’
‘Of course,’ Alvarez kept a straight face, ‘Now remember. You are in bed, your minds may have been on other things, but think about the noises.  Did you hear a door open?’
James’ mind was a blank. He recalled sliding under the thin sheet and beginning to explore the familiar contours of Angela’s body. That totally absorbed him.
‘Yes, I may have done,’ Angela said.
‘The girl’s room, on that side?’ Alvarez pointed to their left.
Angela nodded slowly, ‘I think so.’
‘Once, twice, more times?’
‘What?’ Angela said.
‘The door. Did you hear it open and close more than once?’
Angela sat rigid, her eyes closed. James watched her as her brow crinkled.  ‘I think so. Yes, a while after the first time.’
‘And was there conversation?’
Angela shook her head slowly, ‘I don’t know, there may have been. There were voices from various places, I couldn’t tell.’
Alvarez let out the smallest of sighs. He stood up. ‘Thank you Seňora Frame.’ He started to move towards the door.
‘Wait!’ James said. The policeman paused, looked at him and frowned.
‘Yes, Seňor?’
‘What do you think happened to the girl? What was her name?’
‘Her name is Raquel Thomas,’ The detective replied immediately, ‘And I think she fell to her death.’
‘But how? Was it an accident, suicide or, um, murder?’
The detective glared at James, unblinking. ‘That is my job to find out, Seňor Frame.’
‘Which do you think it was?’
‘I am sorry. I do not discuss my thoughts. Do you have an opinion?’
James opened his mouth, paused. Should he say what he had observed? He took a breath, swallowed. ‘I think she was murdered.’
The policeman’s expression did not change. ‘Do you have evidence for that conclusion, Seňor Frame.’
‘Her fingernails were broken and her fingertips were bloody.’
Alvarez smiled. ‘Ah, you noticed that. You are a detective Seňor Frame?’
‘I’m a police constable, at home in England.’
The detective took a deep breath and frowned. ‘Well, PC Frame, thank you for your opinion and observation but please remember that you are on vacation here. The death of Seňorita Thomas is my case and I do not allow interference.’
James shook his head violently. ‘No, of course not.’
‘Enjoy your honeymoon Seňor, Seňora. Do what honeymooners do.’ Alvarez turned, pulled the door open and departed.
……to be continued.

 

Jasmine in lists

I’ve been thinking about misogyny i.e. hatred of women. Some time ago a police force in England announced that it was considering treating acts of misogyny like other hate-crimes of minority groups. This means that all incidents are logged even if no actual crime can be said to have taken place (e.g. swearing at someone can be an offence in a public place but not in a private home). There are enhanced punishments for those convicted of a hate-crime. Women may not be a minority group but they are certainly targeted in various ways, from wolf whistles in the street to rape and murder, simply for being women. This is the indicator of a hate-crime.

Many men would no doubt say that they do not hate women and the whistles and comments and groping are signs that they are actually attracted to the object of their attention. That is not the point. That sort of behaviour shows that they hate the idea of a woman as an independent, thinking person with the same rights as themselves. The case of Trump (I hope that he will soon be forgotten and we don’t have to keep using him as an example) shows this. Treating any women as a plaything and bragging about it in “the locker-room” or the saloon bar or wherever to other blokes reveals the true misogynist nature of the man.

Of course whenever this kind of crime comes up we are reminded of George Orwell’s thoughtcrime. Is it wrong to think of women in this way? Well, I don’t think people should be prosecuted for their thoughts but I do think it shows that we have a long way to go to educate men and boys that women and girls have the right not to be the object of their attention whether verbal, manual or sexual, at least until they have consented. Education does not mean brain-washing, it means explaining and developing an understanding. It is disappointing if some men still show their misogyny in the way that they talk to other men but it is their actions towards women that should be punished.

A final thought. Some feminists refuse to accept transwomen as women or allies in the fight against misogyny.  I think that though wrong they have some reason for their actions. There are some transvestites (not, I think transsexuals) who reinforce outdated stereotypes of women and think that by dressing as women they can act like the fluffy-headed dolls that they perceive women to be. As someone who feels that I reside somewhere in the middle of the male-female spectrum that attitude appalls me as much as it would any woman.

…………………….

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Murder in doubt cover

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Following the end of the Jasmine Frame story, Perspective, last week I’m taking a rest this week.  There have now been ten novellas and three novels which are listed below in chronological order

Discovering Jasmine    2000    novella   e-book          James ventures out as Jasmine

Murder in Doubt            2001     novella  e-book          James meets Angela at university (formerly Soft Focus)

Aberration                       2004     novella  unpublished   James living with Angela after uni.

Flashlight                        2009     novella  unpublished  PC Frame seconded to V&SCU

Resolution                       2009     novella  unpublished  sequel to Flashlight

Blueprint                         2009      novella  unpublished  James reveals Jasmine to Tom

Self-portrait                   2010      novella  unpublished  Jasmine starts transition

Close-up                          2010      novella  unpublished   starting hormone treatment

Split Mirror                      2011      novella  unpublished   moves to flat, alone.

Perspective                      2011      novella  unpublished   resigns from police force

Painted Ladies                 2012     novel     e-book/pbk    called in to catch serial killer

Bodies By Design            2012     novel     e-book/pbk    assisting Sloane to trace killer

Brides’ Club Murder       2012    novel     unpublished   solving a country house murder.

Jasmine decides

This may be considered navel gazing but I thought this week I would consider further where I see myself in the gender selection-box. You may be satisfied with just male and female but actually it’s rather more complex than that. First of all let’s get this straight – gender is not sex and gender identity is not related to sexuality. For the vast majority of people sex is determined by whether or not they have a Y chromosome. If you do then under normal circumstances you were born with penis and testicles and a body that from puberty brims with testosterone; if not, then you have ovaries, uterus, vagina, clitoris etc. and at puberty felt the effects of oestrogen. A small proportion of children are born with genetic or congenital abnormalities that render them intersex, i.e. their sex can not be determined at birth.

Gender and gender identity are something  else. As you grow up you become the sum of your genes and experiences. This process doesn’t stop at puberty or adulthood; you change throughout your life. You develop a feeling of who you are and where you sit in masculine-feminine spectrum. For most people this probably isn’t even a question they ever ask themselves. Their gender identity matches their body’s appearance and that’s all that matters. For a considerable percentage of us though, there is a mis-match in the person we think we are and what we look like.

Gender isn’t just male or female. If you think about all the people you know then you will realise that all the men don’t have the same personalities and neither do the women. There is a whole range of behaviour that positions a person somewhere on the gender spectrum.

For those of us who question our gender identity there are a number of pigeon-holes in which we can place ourselves, that’s if we are prepared to be pigeon-holed at all.

Transsexuals – are people who identify with a gender different to their physical sex. i.e. MtF or FtM. For many this feeling is so great that they detest the body that doesn’t fit with their self-image. They may decide to live as the person they identify as which will involve transition and may or may not include medical and surgical procedures to achieve that. Improvements in medicine and changes to the law and societal attitudes have enabled more people to transition in recent years. The media still focusses on celebrity transitions but is less sensationalist thanks to TV shows like Transparent and Boy Meets Girl.

Transvestites – are people who dress up in the clothes of a gender different to their sex. This applies almost exclusively to men dressing as women since in western culture the acceptable clothing choices available to women now include most, if not all, male attire. The thing about transvestism is that it reinforces gender stereotypes e.g. the tarty/show-girl look, the dress-like- Mum style, and so on. The transvestite almost feels obliged to adopt a look that enables them to pass as female (i.e. wearing wigs, false breasts and other enhancements). The term was originally applied to men who dressed up to get aroused so it has sexual connotations that I dislike.

Cross-dresser – means the same as transvestite but tends to be used by those men who dress as women for non-sexual reasons, but in other respects means the same as the above.

Transgender – is an umbrella term that covers all identities and behaviours where perceived gender and physical sex are at odds.

Gender queer and non-binary – are more recent terms adopted by people who reject the traditional labelling of male or female. Their appearance may be difficult to categorise as masculine or feminine e.g. Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst who wore feminine dresses while sporting a full beard.

Androgyny – a mixture or union of male and female (hermaphrodites with male and female sexual organs are androgynous). Previously, a woman who adopted a male appearance was labelled as androgynous (think flat-chested, short-haired Twiggy, or Tilda Swinton) but now the process is being reversed, with males adopting a feminine appearance without seeking to change or enhance their body shape.

wp_20160919_09_48_13_proHaving thought I was a cross-dresser and occasionally wondering if I was transsexual I now feel that I fall into one of the last two categories. I don’t want to mimic a stereotype of a woman but I like the choices in dress, accessories and make-up that woman have available. How I look may make observers question what they see but I am no longer trying to fool them into believing I am something that I am not.

……………………..

So, to the final episode of Perspective, the Jasmine Frame prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design (available from me and all good bookstores). Jasmine is definitely transsexual, by the way. This episode sets Jasmine up for Painted Ladies but, who knows, I may be able to fit in another story.

Perspective: Part 12

Jasmine listened as Palmerston went over the case with reports from Tom Shepherd, Terry Hopkins, Derek Kingston and the other members of the team. Not once was she asked for information or a comment. She sat in her chair feeling increasingly as if she wasn’t really there, that her position as a detective in the Violent and Serious Crime Unit was a dream.
The meeting didn’t last long. DS Palmerston wrapped it up and the group began to disperse to deal with other work. DCI Sloane started to move towards his office. He beckoned to Jasmine.
‘With me, now please, DC Frame,’ he said. Jasmine stirred herself and followed him.
Sloane took his seat behind a desk covered with piles of files and the computer monitor and keyboard gathering dust on the side.  Jasmine stood in front of the desk feeling a little like a naughty school boy, or girl, summoned for punishment by the headmaster.
‘It’s up to the CPS now,’ Sloane said as if continuing a conversation from another time and place, ‘Gayle will probably be charged with manslaughter but as he is still legally a child, he’ll be free soon.’
Jasmine blurted out, ‘What about the injury to his mother, carrying an offensive weapon and the robberies?’ She regretted her words immediately. It sounded as if she had a grudge against Nate Gayle. She was still pretty sore about being mugged and she thought Nate knew what he was up to despite his tender year but she didn’t actually have any ill feelings towards the boy. DS Palmerston was the hate figure in her eyes.
Sloane replied calmly, ‘We accept that Mrs. Gayle’s injury was an accident. As you heard, certain items were found in Gayle’s bedroom that did not belong to him but we have no statements from their owners and with William Smith dead it’s unlikely that the CPS will pursue that aspect of the case.’
Jasmine nodded. She didn’t totally agree with her DCI’s conclusions but perhaps now was not the moment to press her opinions.
‘The outstanding matters relate to your involvement, Frame,’ Sloane continued. ‘Your continued interference, even after suspension, was insubordination at the highest level. Indeed, it could be argued that Mrs Gayle’s wounding was partly caused by your presence in her house without her permission.’
Jasmine opened her mouth to complain, but Sloane held up his hand to stop her and went on. ‘Yes, I know your actions helped to slow the bleeding and you called for assistance, but you should not have been there or anywhere in the vicinity. Explain yourself, please Frame.’
Jasmine took a breath. ‘I’m sorry, Sir, but I felt that DS Palmerston was following the wrong line of enquiry. She ignored what I had reported about my, er, meeting with Gayle and Smith, and my opinion on the involvement of the drag queens.’
‘The DS was following procedure and collecting evidence and statements,’ Sloane growled.
‘And excluding me, Sir, as she had done on every case she has been in charge of since she joined the unit.’
‘Are you accusing Detective Sergeant Palmerston of discrimination, DC Frame?’ Sloane’s neck had turned a shade of crimson and the colour was rising up his cheeks.
‘Now that you mention it, Sir, yes I think it is. She doesn’t like me or what I am and doesn’t want me working with her.’
‘You are deluded, Frame. DS Palmerston is a very able officer who makes efficient use of the resources and personnel that are available.’
‘She hasn’t made efficient use of me, Sir.’
‘The trouble is, Frame, that since you began this, this, what do you call it, transition, you see prejudice everywhere.  I thought you had the makings of a good detective once. . .’
‘When I was a man?’
‘Well, since you put it that way – yes. Having decided you want to be a woman you have been distracted.’
‘I didn’t decide to be a woman, Sir. I am a woman. I decided that I needed to live in my true identity instead of continuing to live an act.’
Sloane’s upper lip crinkled and his eyebrows rose. Was he disgusted or merely confused?
‘Look here, Frame. I know that we as your employers have to allow you to do this thing of yours but in my opinion your performance as a member of this unit has become less than satisfactory and in particular your disobedience with respect to DS Palmerston is unprofessional in the extreme.’
Jasmine was unable to stop herself. ‘Unprofessional. That’s rich. She’s the one who is unprofessional, side-lining and undermining me at every opportunity.’
‘That’s enough,’ Sloane roared, his face now approaching beetroot colour. ‘You will remain suspended while your future in this unit, and perhaps in the force, is considered. I do not want to see you again in this office or station until you are summoned to explain yourself. Is that clear?’
Jasmine matched Sloane’s lack of restraint. ‘You can stick your summons, Sir. I’m resigning.’ She turned and marched from the office holding her head up. She heard gurgling noises from behind her but didn’t turn to see the look on Sloane’s face. She stared straight ahead as she crossed the larger office but saw in her peripheral vision that the whole team was gazing at her. There was silence. No one called to her and then she was through the door and walking down the corridor.
It was a mile or more to the Gayle’s house. Her car had been left there the previous evening when she was taken away by DC Kingston and she needed it back.  It was a dull, chill, winters’ day but Jasmine appreciated the fact that it was dry. Being wet would have added one thing more to her list of miseries.
Did she have to resign on the spot in front of Sloane? Shouldn’t she have given it some thought, awaited the outcome of inquiry into her behaviour? No, she could guess what the result would be if DS Palmerston had any influence over it. She would be demoted at best, kicked out of the police force at worst. Pleading that she was a special case because of her transition was not on; she wouldn’t make that excuse, but she couldn’t think how to overcome Palmerston’s prejudice. She didn’t want to give up her dream job but she was convinced that she had done the right thing. There were implications; she knew that. Being without a steady job didn’t just mean she had no source of income for everyday living expenses, it also meant that she wouldn’t have the funds for the treatments she needed during her transition. What would be the reaction of the Gender Clinic? They might think that she was mentally unstable and refuse to support her through the process on the NHS. It could put back the changes to her body that she needed for years if not for ever.
By the time she saw the old red Fiesta sitting outside the house in the otherwise deserted street, she was thoroughly miserable. The car was inside a cordon of blue and white tape that blocked off the pavement as well as the front garden of the Gayle’s house. There was a solitary police officer standing guard at the front door. He looked up as Jasmine approached as if woken from a reverie brought on by boredom. He watched her step over the tape and approach the car. She put the key in the lock and pulled the door open.
‘Hey, what are you doing?’ he called out, advancing down the garden path.
‘Taking my car,’ Jasmine replied.
‘It’s in a restricted area.’
‘I know; I came here in it last night.’
‘You can’t move anything from a restricted area.’
‘Yes, I can when it has nothing to do with the case and belongs to me.’
‘Who are you?’
‘Detective Constable Frame.’ How many more times would she say that, she wondered.’
‘Frame? I think I know that name.’ The PC had stopped at the gate and looked nonplussed.
‘Look, if you’re anxious, call in to your boss and check that it’s alright for me to take my own car away.’
‘Er, yes, I’ll do that.’ He muttered into his radio. Jasmine leaned on the roof of her car with the driver’s door open.  There were a few minutes of two-way conversation including a hiatus while the officer waited for a reply. Finally, he stood up straight and looked happier.
‘They say that’s alright. You can take the car away.’
‘Thank you,’ Jasmine gave him a broad and appreciative smile.
‘I’ll undo the tape for you,’ he said, moving to the front of the car and unwinding the tape from the bollards. Jasmine got in, inserted the key and turned the ignition. Now was not the time for the car to refuse to start, she thought. The starter motor groaned and the engine fired. She puffed out the breath she had been holding. Then she waved polite thanks to the PC and pulled away.
As the car warmed up her mood improved. She was her own boss now, not bound by police regulations and hierarchy. She would pursue the idea she had had a day or two ago – become a private detective. Surely, there would be lots of demand for someone with CID experience. Of course she would be a success. Also, there was the proceeds from the sale of her share of the house to Angela. It wasn’t a lot but it would provide some capital for her business until the revenue from successful investigations came in. What should she call herself? She thought about it. Frame Investigations – that was it. She smiled. A new life beckoned as the independent female private eye.
…………the end.

Jasmine summoned

I have a book called Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. It is a reprint by Wordsworth Reference but was written by Charles Mackay and published in its complete form in 1852. It therefore predates such twentieth century delusions as Nazism, pyramid selling and that tartan trousers were once thought to be the height of fashion. Mackay examines such cases as the South Sea Bubble, Tulipmania, the Crusades, witch hunts and fortune-telling, amongst others. In each story whole communities apparently lost all reason in following a rush to penury or self-destruction.  It occurs to me that Mackay would have plenty to tackle today such Trump’s apparent popularity in part of the USA, the ease with which brits fell for the Leavers lies and the denial of the evidence for climate change and ecological breakdown.

Day after day, I become more worried about where we, that is, the people of the world, are headed.  I lived through the Cold War with no great fear of nuclear annihilation but I think now human civilisation is heading willingly if ignorantly towards its end. We hear talk about the current generation of young adults, the millennials, as being the first to fare worse than their parents. That applies in the UK, and across all of the west, but is a mild step back compared to other potential calamities. I think disaster beckons if there is continuance of the state of mind that sees a Trump as a saviour, or supports the blinkered isolationist view that bred Brexit, or stokes the violence of jihad, or continues to burn coal and oil regardless of the consequences or ignores our reliance on the Earth to sustain us. Back in the Cold War we thought that civilisation would end almost overnight in a nuclear holocaust. Now I think it will come in an almost imperceptible worsening of conditions across the world and close to home. In fact it is already happening with the growing number in poverty in the UK and elsewhere despite the millennium promises to life people out of it; the accelerating deterioration in ecologies across the world; the increasing belligerence of world and regional powers (Syria as one case in point); and a hardening of attitudes of ordinary people to what is dismissed as political correctness. How long will it take? I hope I am being optimistic in saying we’ll last out my lifetime but I fear for our grandchildren.

 

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Me and a wall

 

 

After that bit of dismal thought let’s move on to something trivial – the next episode of Perspective. We’re into the penultimate part following last week’s bloody action, but there are still some things to be worked out.  This was intended as the last prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design chronologically, but we shall see if I can fit another story in that explores Jasmine’s gender identity while investigating crimes.

 

 

Perspective: Part 11

DS Palmerston strode towards the front door but was forced to pause as the paramedics wheeled Mrs Gayle out on a stretcher. Jasmine remained sitting on the stairs, waiting for the onslaught to begin.
‘What did you think you were doing, Frame,’ Palmerston moaned as she resumed her march into the house.  Jasmine shrugged.  ‘You’ve been arrested for obstructing the case and here you are causing more mayhem.’
‘I had to get the truth out of Nate Gayle.’
‘And that meant getting his mother injured, did it?’
‘I didn’t mean that to happen. I got Nate wrong.’
‘Damn right you did. You pushed him over a cliff.’
‘No, it wasn’t like that.’
‘You’ve been on his back from the start. It’s called harassment, Frame.’
Jasmine grabbed the bannister and pulled herself up.  She felt unsteady and her head hurt.
‘Look, ma’am, all I’ve been trying to do is show you that it wasn’t those two drag queens that killed Wizzer.’
Palmerston waved her hand dismissively. ‘They both deny it but they had plenty of time to get their stories to tie up.’
‘What stories?’
‘They say they were approached by the two boys who then started arguing and fighting. The two men then ran off and didn’t get involved.’
‘That sounds likely to me. Why don’t you believe them?’
‘They’re providing an alibi for each other. They’re bigger than the two boys.’
‘But they were in drag gear, presumably high heels, tight skirts or dresses. Not the clothes for launching an attack on two streetwise kids.’
Palmerston frowned. ‘Gayle said they shouted racist abuse.’
‘Gayle said. Can’t you see that although he’s a boy not a man, he’s not an innocent kid. I thought Wizzer was the boss, the instigator, but I was wrong. It was Nate all along.’
‘He told you that did he?’ Palmerston spat, ‘You got a confession?’
Jasmine felt the heat rise up her neck. ‘He was angry and blurted it out. Wizzer usually did as he was told including brandishing the knife but it was Nate that took the stuff. For some reason Wizzer decided he deserved more and that was what started the argument. I don’t think Nate meant to kill him but he’s pretty careless when he’s got a knife in his hand.’
‘That’s what got his mother injured?’
‘Yes. He was waving it at me and spun around when his mother spoke to him.’
‘You’re going to have to give a statement, Frame.’
‘Of course.’
‘Go and sit in the car. SOCO can take over here.’
‘What about Nate?’
‘We’ll pick him up. Go.’
Jasmine brushed passed the DS and stepped outside. It was raining again. She went to Palmerston’s car and got into the back seat. Derek Kingston was in the driving seat.
‘You in trouble again, Jas,’ the DC said.
‘Yeah, real trouble I expect, but if I’ve persuaded that woman that she got the story wrong then it’s worth it.’
‘Worth losing your career? You do know that Sloane has been threatening you with all sorts of dire consequences?’
‘I can guess.’
More police cars and a van drove up. Jasmine watched as officers in overalls entered the house while other officers set up tape barriers.
Palmerston returned to the car and bent down to speak through Kingston’s window.
‘Get out Kingston. You stay here looking after things. I’ll take Frame back to the station, take her statement, and make sure we’ve got enough officers out searching for Gayle.’ She tugged the door open and Kingston got out. Palmerston took his place, started the engine and reversed out of the cluster of vehicles.  Jasmine saw Palmerston’s eyes in the driving mirror.
‘Don’t say another word, Frame, until we’re at the station.’

Jasmine sat alone in the interview room. There was a cup of tea on the table in front of her which she didn’t want. A black coffee would be preferable or a glass of water which would do her more good. Her head and neck ached. In the bright light of the room she could see clearly the blood staining her front from her breasts to her shins.  Mrs Gayle’s blood. She wondered how she was doing; was she even still alive.
The door opened and Tom Shepherd entered accompanied by DC Hopkins.
‘Hi, Jas,’ Tom said, ‘We’ve come to take your formal statement.’
‘Not Palmerston?’
‘She’s busy organising the search for Nate Gayle. We’ve got cars driving round the estate and officers on foot checking the alleyways and gardens.’
‘He could be hiding anywhere.’
‘Yes, but its cold and wet. He’s not going to be comfortable. In fact, he could be in danger himself if we don’t find him quickly.’
The two detectives sat down opposite Jasmine.
‘You look a mess, Frame,’ Hopkins sneered, ‘and you’ve caused a mess.’
‘You must have headed off to the Gayle house right after I dropped you off,’ Tom said, ‘Why, after everything that was said about you going off on your own thing?’
Jasmine sighed. ‘I thought Nate’s mother might get him to admit what really happened.’
‘Did she?’ Tom asked.
‘Sort of, but I didn’t realise that Nate was the leader and a knife carrier. How is Mrs Gayle?’
‘Hanging on,’ Hopkins growled, ‘You’re in deep shit for causing all this, Frame.’
‘Thanks Derek,’ Jasmine muttered, ‘I think I know that.’
Tom arranged the pad of paper in front of him. ‘Let’s get your statement down, Jas. Then we can move on.’Bang! Bang! Bang!  Was the noise in her head? Jasmine stirred in her bed, opened her eyes. A grey light filtered through her thin curtains. She glanced at her watch on the bedside table. It said nine a.m. She’d had six hours sleep since the police car had brought her home, but she still felt groggy.
The banging came again. Someone knocking on her front door. She pushed herself out of bed and grabbed her dressing gown. She had it around herself by the time she got to the door and tugged it open. Tom Shepherd was there, again.
He looked at her. ‘Oh, you are here. I wondered. . .’
‘Wondered what, Tom?’
‘Since you weren’t answering I thought you might have gone off on your own again.’
‘I’ve been sleeping, Tom. I had a headache.’
‘Oh, yes, so you said. How is it?’
‘Better, not perfect.’ She felt the side of her head. The lump seemed to have subsided. ‘Why are you here, Tom? Not arresting me again?’
Tom shuffled his feet. ‘No, but Sloane sent me to fetch you to a meeting.’
‘A meeting?’
‘Yes, to wrap up the case and with him, I think.’
‘He could have rung.’
‘He wanted to make sure you were there on time.’
‘When is it?’
Tom looked at his watch. ‘Nine-thirty.’
Jasmine snorted. ‘Well, thanks for the warning. That doesn’t give me time to get ready properly.’
Tom bowed his head, ‘I think that was the idea, Sloane’s in a mood. Look you’d better be getting dressed.’
‘Oh, come in then and close the door.’
Jasmine went back to the bedroom. She seethed. Sloane knew that she needed a bit more time than most people to get herself prepared to face the outside world. At least she’d had a shower last night when she got home to wash off the blood and clear her head. She ran her shaver over her face, knowing that it wasn’t enough, pulled on the first clothes she could lay hands on and slapped foundation on.
She returned to the living room. Tom was standing by the front door.
‘There, I don’t feel comfortable but is that quick enough for Sloane do you think?’
‘You look okay, Jas. A bit, um, what should I say, less. . .’
‘Well-groomed, feminine?’
‘No, erm. . . You’re fine.’
She didn’t want to embarrass him anymore. He was still her friend. ‘Come on then. I suppose my car is still outside the Gayle’s house.’
‘Yes. There’s no time to pick it up now, Jas.’
‘I know. Get me to this meeting.’

All the eyes were on her as Jasmine entered the unit’s office. It made her feel nervous thinking that her colleagues were examining her, and judging her appearance as a woman. She was angry that Sloane had not given her time to get her make-up completed to her satisfaction.
Sloane was standing by the whiteboard, apparently already addressing the team. He beckoned to Jasmine and Tom to join them.
‘Ah, Frame. Please don’t get the idea that your suspension is in abeyance. I nevertheless felt it would be appropriate for you to be at this conference. Take a seat.’
Jasmine pushed a chair from behind a desk and positioned it behind the other detectives facing Sloane. She sat down. Tom joined her.
‘Now, DS Palmerston will bring you up to date on the latest situation,’ Sloane said. His female deputy stood up and faced the group.
‘First of all, the hospital reports that Mrs Gayle’s condition has stabilised. She is still unconscious but the bleeding has been stopped. She should make a full recovery.’  There were mutterings and nods of heads around the room. Jasmine felt a sense of relief. It was bad enough feeling a little responsible for her injury but if the woman had died she didn’t know how she would have coped.
‘Also, Nathan Gayle has been found in an alleyway less than a hundred metres from his home. He was pretty cold and wet but is recovering in a cell. He’s been worried about his mother and has been talking to us.’
Sloane spoke, ‘Which leads me to the announcement that the two previous suspects in the death of William Smith have been released without charge. DS Palmerston will explain what we now know happened on Friday night.’
Jasmine stared at the DS. Did she look embarrassed? Her cheeks were a little flushed but her eyes hardly flickered and when she spoke it was with her usual self-confidence.
‘Gayle has agreed that his previous statement was incorrect and that the fatal injury to William Smith was accidental and occurred during a tussle between the two of them. The two men who we originally suspected were bystanders and should have come forward as witnesses.  Gayle will be charged but he is a minor.’
Jasmine allowed herself a small smile. Her version of events had been accepted, at last, but was she vindicated?  She didn’t expect that much joy from Palmerston.
………………….to be concluded

Jasmine bloodied

We change throughout our lives. Life would be pretty boring if we didn’t develop, learn new things and have new experiences. Even our memories change. They’re not packed in our brains like books in a library, more like the foods in a larder which are taken out from time to time, used and replenished. My own feelings have changed over time and recently I made a fairly important decision.

I discovered I was transgendered (to use the term loosely) when I was in my late 20s. Since 2000, with the support of my dear Lou, I have been “out” and developing my female persona. While I decided that I was not transsexual because I didn’t despise my male body nor want to change it, I did think that I needed to pass as a woman. I think I was quite successful at that, at least from a distance. To achieve the look, in addition  to the female clothes, make-up and jewellery I wore a wig and a bra filled with silicone boobs. The wig was a good disguise and the boobs gave me a more feminine silhouette.

For the last three years I have been out just about as far as it is possible to be out. I now assume that anyone I meet knows that I’m trans (even if they don’t) and I have also mixed up my two public images quite a bit. I’ve always felt that I was one person with male and female characteristics but to fit in with society’s expectations I have appeared either as a man or as a woman. Gradually though, my understanding of myself has changed. First it struck me that the disguise offered by the wig was hiding who I was (it was also pretty uncomfortable in summertime). A year ago I gave up wearing the wig and have since had my hair styled in a more feminine manner.

wp_20160919_14_50_22_proNow I have decided that stuffing a bra to give myself a bust is also presenting a false impression of who I am. I don’t have a bust and I don’t want to pretend I have one anymore.  I have decided to just be me – the me that likes to have a feminine appearance wearing dresses, skirts or tunics over tights or leggings with tops in a variety of colours and styles. The me who loves to wear dangly ear rings and necklaces. The me who likes to wear lipstick, eye-shadow and foundation. Strangely, losing the boobs has not made me appear or feel less female (I think) although I now have the fun of choosing styles of clothes that suit someone who is tall, flat-chested, and mature (yes, I need to have regard for my age).

What does that make me? Do we still need labels? Am I transgender or is the term non-binary more appropriate though less well-known outside gender identity circles? Whatever term you want to use, I am the me I am now. Who knows who I’ll be in the future.

………………..

After that long ramble here is the tenth (yes, we’ve got that far) episode of Perspective, the prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design which fills in the career of Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective.

Perspective: Part 10

Jasmine approached the front door of the small terraced house. She pressed the doorbell and waited. Soon there was the sound of steps approaching and the door was opened by a woman with long dark hair and a pale face.
‘Mrs Gayle?’ Jasmine asked. The woman nodded.  ‘I’m Detective Constable Frame. I’m here in connection with the death of William Smith, a friend of your son, Nate.’
A worried expression appeared in the woman’s face. ‘What about it? Nate has answered all your questions.’
‘I thought you should know that two young white men have been arrested for the attack. They are being questioned at the moment.’
Mrs Gayle shrugged but Jasmine thought she appeared nervous. ‘So?’
‘I was wondering if there was anything else you or Nate could tell us.’
‘Like what?’
‘Such as how the men could see that Nate and Wizzer were mixed race in the dark and the drizzle.’
‘What?’ Now the woman looked confused. She stared at Jasmine in the light from her hallway. ‘What did you say your name was? Frame? Didn’t I complain about you pestering my son.’ She pushed the door closed but Jasmine stuck her foot in the way.
‘You did Mrs Gayle, and I’m sorry about that, but I think that what happened is not quite what Nate has told us.’
The woman was indignant. ‘Nate said those men, well, men dressed as women, attacked him and William and called them vile, racist names. Don’t you believe him?’
‘Not exactly. Not after he’d robbed me.’
‘Not Nate.’ The tone was firm and certain.
‘Yes, Nate and his mate.’
There were thuds of feet on stairs and Nate appeared behind his mother.
‘What’s going on, Mum. Oh, it’s him. The tranny cop. I thought we’d got you off my back.’
‘Not quite,’ Jasmine said placing her weight against the door to ensure it couldn’t be closed.
Mrs Gayle turned to speak to the boy. ‘She, er he, says you robbed her, Nate. Tell me the truth. You still haven’t told me why you were out that late. I thought you were in bed.’
Nate shrugged. ‘I went out with Wizzer.’
‘Why?’
‘To hang out together. Do stuff.’ Nate turned away and padded down the hallway. Mrs Gayle followed.
‘What do you mean? Nate. Tell me, I’m your mother.’
Jasmine stepped inside the doorway and closed the door behind her. She was in the house now and she was going to get some answers from the lad.
Nate turned to face his mother. ‘We were having a bit of fun.’
‘After midnight? You sneaked out without telling me so you could have fun with that boy.’
Nate looked over his mother’s shoulder and saw Jasmine standing behind her.
‘What are you doing in our house?’
‘Getting some answers, Nate. Look, I know it wasn’t the two queens who killed Wizzer. Tell me what really happened. Perhaps it was an accident. Perhaps you and Wizzer argued, the knife came out and it was Wizzer who got stabbed.’
‘Na, it was the fucking weirdoes. They attacked us.’
‘Why should they Nate? I’ve seen them. They may have been having a laugh at the drag night but outside in the dark and wet they aren’t the type to go picking a fight with two streetwise lads.  Why were you and Wizzer arguing? Was it about your takings – the credit cards, the phones, my cash.’
‘What is she talking about, Nate?’ Mrs Gayle said, ‘What takings? Did you rob her like she says?’
‘Oh, shut up, you old slag.’ Nate shoved his mother against the bannister of the stairs and advanced towards Jasmine. She crumpled onto the floor. He slipped his hand in his jeans pocket and pulled out an object. A blade sprang from it.
Jasmine retreated until her back was against the door. Nate approached holding the knife out in front of him.
‘The little wimp tried to keep more than I gave him.’
‘You gave him?’ Jasmine didn’t understand, ‘You were divvying out the takings?’
‘Yeah, of course. Wizzer did as he was told, usually, but then he started to whine about deserving more.’ He shoved the knife forward. Jasmine winced and pressed back against the door. Even the sight of a knife made her tremble.
His mother picked herself up and reached a hand up to Nate’s shoulder.
‘Don’t you speak to me like that, Nate.’  She grabbed his shoulder and tugged. Nate span around, the blade sweeping in a large arc, an arc that intersected with the woman’s midriff. She let out a cry and crumpled to the floor. Blood spurted out onto the carpet.
Nate leapt across his mother towards the door to the kitchen. Jasmine ran after him, taking one step over the fallen woman and diving for the boy’s legs. They fell to the floor, the knife falling from his hand as Nate’s head crashed against the kitchen door. Jasmine recovered first, knelt with a knee in the boy’s back and pulled his arms behind his back. She regretted not having her set of handcuffs with her, but she wasn’t on duty and they were sitting in the drawer of her desk at the Police Station.
Nate wriggled. Jasmine pressed harder against his back and gave his arms an extra tug. He squealed.
‘Lie still or I’ll do you some real injury,’ Jasmine said. ‘I’ve got to get some help for your mother.’
Nate subsided. His mother groaned and writhed.
‘Stay still,’ Jasmine ordered, ‘or you’ll bleed to death.’ Jasmine was worried that that was exactly what was happening. She had to get help.  Jasmine’s shoulder bag had miraculously remained around her neck. With her spare hand she fumbled in it for her phone. One handed she dialled three nines and requested an ambulance and the police.
‘Can I trust you not to run, while I try to help your mother,’ Jasmine asked. The boy grunted something like an affirmation. Jasmine let his arms go and shifted her weight off his back. She turned to look at the woman.  Her jumper and leggings were soaking with blood and Jasmine could see that more was seeping out onto the floor.  The woman was haemorrhaging to death. Jasmine pressed her hands against the area of the woman’s abdomen from which the blood seemed to be leaking hoping to stem the flow.  It was all she could do until the paramedics arrived.
There was a scrambling, shuffling noise behind her. She turned her head to see what Nate was up to. A blow caught her temple, wrenching her neck.  There were bright lights amid darkness. The darkness won.
Sirens and door banging penetrated the blackness. She stirred. Her head ached but Jasmine was alert enough to recall what had happened. She found she was lying across Mrs Gayle, her front as bloodied as the injured woman who was now unconscious.
There was another hammering on the door. Jasmine struggled to her feet and turned the knob of the lock. The door swung open. There were two paramedics and a uniformed policeman.
The paramedics looked at her, their eyes wide. They made to move towards her.
‘No, not me. I’m fine. It’s her,’ she pointed to the woman on the floor. The paramedics pushed passed her and descended on Mrs Gayle.
‘What’s happened here?’ the officer asked.
‘Mrs Gayle was injured by a knife held by her son. It was an accident but he’s run off,’ Jasmine summarised. She put her hands to the side of her head which felt sore. She was trying to make sense of what Nate had said.
‘And who are you?’
‘DC Frame. I came to question the boy.’ Jasmine searched in her pocket for her warrant card then remembered that Tom had relieved her of it.
‘DC eh? Where’s your partner?’
‘I’m on my own.’
The PC’s eyebrows rose. ‘Who is your senior officer?’
Jasmine couldn’t avoid saying it, much as she wanted to. ‘It’s DS Palmerston. I think she’ll be at Kintbridge police station.’
‘I’ll get on to him.’
‘Her.’
‘Oh, OK. Are you alright? You look a bit pale but I guess that’s not your blood,’ he nodded to the staining down the front of her jumper and skirt.
Her neck ached and there was a lump on the side of her head. She took a deep breath.
‘No, I’m ok. Perhaps I had better be getting back.’
‘I don’t think you should leave until your superior officer arrives. Let me give her a call.’
‘Oh, alright.’ Jasmine leaned against the wall of the hall felling dizzy and nauseous. She listened to the officer speak into his radio. After a minute or so it sounded as if he had been put through to the DS. Jasmine could hear her high-pitched whine of a voice expressing surprise and anger. The conversation finished.
‘She says she’s coming,’ the PC said, ‘she sounded a bit surprised that you were here.’
‘I bet.’
The officer looked at the backs of the paramedics bent over the woman. ‘Is she going to be OK?’
‘I don’t know,’ Jasmine said, ‘but don’t you think you should put out a call to pick her son up.’
‘Oh, yeah. That’s right.’
Jasmine described the young man and the officer passed on the details to the headquarters staff. She sat on the stairs while the officer talked and the paramedics worked on Mrs Gayle. She was wondering whether she had got the story wrong. She had thought that Wizzer was the boss and Nate the lackey.
The PC finished talking as there was the distant sound of another siren. Less than a minute later, Jasmine saw through the open doorway, an unmarked car screech to a halt next to the ambulance. The easily recognisable figure of DS Palmerston got out and strode towards the house. The street and vehicle lights were enough for Jasmine to see the anger on her face.
……………..to be continued.

Jasmine takes a break

And still it goes on – the news I mean. I’m writing this a little early this week but already we’ve had Farage resigning, again, He’d done his job, so he says. No thought about the aftermath or what responsibility he might have. And Chris Evans resigning from Top Gear. I haven’t watched the new series and neither, for a long time, did I watch the old version.  I like James May and Richard Hammond but Clarkson increasingly got on my nerves with his views. But a TV programme is unimportant compared to what is happening to the government of our country. I’ve read and heard Europeans comment that they thought us Brits were calm and thoughtful and wouldn’t, couldn’t, make such a mess of things as leaving the EU. Well, all I can say is that they haven’t met the ones that voted Leave because if they holiday abroad at all, it’s likely that they stay in hotels and camps that are shut off from the country they are in and the only “foreigners” they meet are the waiters, chambermaids, etc. Doesn’t apply to all of them of course.  We shall see what the next week brings.

Having finished Aberration last week I have decided to take a break from writing Jasmine Frame stories for a few weeks.  Writing the stories is fun but each episode takes up a considerable time each week. I also feel I need to give Jasmine a rest so I can get the imagination and creativity going again. I am writing another fantasy novel which I need to devote more time to. I also want to get the third Jasmine novel ready for publication, and perhaps prepare another of the prequels for e-book publication,  so that will keep me busy. It is almost three years since I started writing the prequels and I have finished nine of them (I thought it was just eight!). For those of you that are interested, the table below lists all the Jasmine Frame stories, written, published or planned. There are still a few gaps in Jasmine’s life story, particularly her first years in the police force. However, I don’t really like writing police procedurals and her opportunities for investigations as a uniformed PC may be limited – but we will see.

This blog will continue nevertheless, with comments on the world outside fiction, especially my experience of transgenderism and news about the Jasmine publications (perhaps some free or reduced price offers soon) so I hope you will continue to pop in for a read.

To show how things change in three years here are a couple of photos of me during that time.

2013, shortly after the publication of Painted Ladies

2013, shortly after the publication of Painted Ladies

2016, at Hay Festival.

2016, at Hay Festival.

Provisional title date situation crime Publication & length Publication date
Discovering Jasmine 2000 James experimenting with his gender identity Transwoman intimidated by youths Ebook, Discovering Jasmine

20,000w

2015
Soft Focus 2001 James meets Angela at Uni. Transman dies; suicide or murder? Ebook, Murder in Doubt

21,000w

2016
Aberration 2004 James & Angela living together post- graduation Transman killed 16,000w  
Flashlight 2009 James seconded to V&SCU, meets DCI Sloane for the first time. Woman killed by drug overdose supplied by transwoman 24,000w  
Resolution 2009 James appointed to V&SCU. Meets DC Tom Shepherd Colleague (from Flashlight) murdered 23,000w  
Blueprint 2009 James reveals he is trans Crossdresser suicide 38,000w  
Self=portrait 2010 Start of transition Young transman accused of murder 27,000w  
Close-up 2010 Jasmine back at work. Conflict with DS Baby alleged to be snatched in high street 23,000w  
Split Mirror 2011 Separating from Angela, move into flat. Conflict with DS Transwoman disappeared 22,000w  
Painted Ladies 2012 Jasmine working as private detective. Divorce from Angela. Serial killer targeting trans women Ebook & paperback, Painted Ladies 80,000w 2013
Bodies By Design 2012 Biorchidectomy, start of relationship with Viv Transwoman murdered Ebook & paperback, Bodies By Design 72,000w 2015
The Brides’ Club Murder 2012 Electrolysis. Planning to move in with Viv Leader of Bridal wear group murdered t.b.d

76,000w

2016/17
Molly’s Boudoir 2013 Breast augmentation. Living with Viv Arson at trans shop t.b.d. ?
Impersonator 2014 GRS. Female impersonator killed t.b.d. ?

 

Jasmine in a jam

I’ve been feeling pain and anguish this week. Mentally, because of the run up to the referendum and the aftershock of Jo Cox’s murder and literally because of a blocked salivary gland (it hurts). As I am writing this on Referendum Day, I cannot tell whether my fears have been averted or not but what I can say is that the last month or two has shown the so-called democracy of the UK to be very sick indeed and, whatever the result turns out to be when you read this, there are some repairs to be made. The legitimisation of bigotry and the hate and fear of minorities that has been aired during the campaign is one thing that makes me afraid for the future. I hope that good old British toleration will re-surface soon. I may have more to say on this in the coming weeks. . .

Out in public at Hay and feeling accepted.

Out in public at Hay and feeling accepted.

While my concentration has been broken by stabbing pains to my jaw I have managed to complete what is probably the penultimate part of Aberration, a prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design featuring transgender detective Jasmine Frame..  Warning – there is some violence and strong language. Enjoy!

Aberration: Part 9

Jasmine said nothing, looking at the man and wondering if he had murdered Andy.
‘Nothing to say?’ he said. He pulled a new slim Nokia from his jeans. ‘I’ve been getting calls from my friends around town saying that a girl called Jasmine was looking for me.’ He leaned down and placed a hand on Jasmine’s bare thigh. ‘I get all the attention I need from pretty girls but they don’t usually go round all the pubs looking for me. What’s it with you?’
Jasmine swallowed, trying not to look afraid. ‘I wanted to ask you about Andy Pickford.’
Josh stood up and shook his head. ‘Don’t know the name.’
‘I think you do,’ Jasmine said, feeling more confident. ‘His body was pulled out of the Kennet on Thursday morning. I’d guess, not too far from here.’
Josh shrugged again. Jasmine knew he was feigning incomprehension.
‘And I know you talked to him twice on Wednesday,’ she went on.
Josh frowned, his jaw sagged. Got him, Jasmine thought. He didn’t know I knew that.
‘A right little detective aren’t you,’ he said. ‘Surprising for a fluffy haired little cunt.’
Jasmine ignored the insult. ‘You spoke to Andy twice and a few hours later he was dead.’
Josh snorted. ‘You said, Andy, but that wasn’t her real name. She was Andrea, a fucking girl.’
‘He believed he was a boy. He wanted to be a boy,’ Jasmine insisted.
‘Yeah, he said that. But his parents didn’t know it nor did her boss. I wonder what they would have done if they’d found out.’
‘You were going to out her!’ Jasmine realised what Josh had intended.
‘Only if she didn’t play the game.’
‘Game?’
‘Yeah. I gave her the option to join us for, er, a bit of entertainment, or find that everyone knew that she was a sick in the head tranny.’
‘She was worried to death her father might find out. I think she thought he’d beat her up.’
‘Maybe he would have, perhaps that’s why she was so eager to accept my offer.’ Josh was grinning at her now, enjoying recounting his triumph. Jasmine doubted Andy’s enthusiasm.
‘Accepted what?’ Jasmine said in a quiet voice, almost not wanting to know what Andy had let himself be used for.
Josh went on with his story. ‘Just in case she changed her mind I picked her up when she finished work for the night. Brought her back here for a few drinks to loosen her up.’
‘You got her drunk?’
Josh shrugged, ‘A bit tipsy. It made her obliging.’
‘What do you mean, obliging?’ Anger bubbled up in Jasmine’s throat.
‘When we got those jeans and shapeless t-shirt off her she was quite a pretty girl. Nice pair of tits and a juicy slit.’
‘You raped her.’
‘She’d agreed to have fun.’
‘You got her drunk and then raped her,’ Jasmine insisted.
Josh leaned down, face level with Jasmine’s, one hand gripping her thigh, the other, the back of her neck. ‘She was gagging for it.  She just needed a cock up her to prove to her she was a girl not a fucking boy.’
‘She was a boy,’ Jasmine spat out, ‘you forced her. She didn’t want sex with you.’
Josh grinned at her. ‘Every girl wants sex with me, you blonde tart. If they know what’s good for them.’ His hand slid a few inches up her thigh under her skirt.
‘Did Andy resist even though you’d got him drunk? Did he not find you irresistible?’
‘When she’d had enough, we dressed her up and put her out.’ His hand crept further up her leg.
‘You mean you dumped her in the river.’
‘She fancied a swim.’
The fingers were in her groin, pulling at the elastic of her knickers. Jasmine bit her lip. She stiffened knowing that she was going to have move in a moment. A finger slipped inside feeling for what wasn’t there. It found something that was. The hand stopped moving.
‘Well, what have we got her? The little girl isn’t a girl.’  The hand withdrew from her knickers and he released her neck. He swung his arm and the hand slammed into the side of her head. ‘Disgusting pervert.’
Jasmine rocked on the chair, her head ringing.
‘Think you can fool Josh do you? You want to be a girl? You want cock. I’ll give you cock.’  He swung a leg over hers and crouched astride her. His hand went to his flies and started to pull down the zip. The other hand grabbed her nick and pulled her head forward. Jasmine put her hands on his chest and pushed but his weight pressed forward.
Some commotion in the hallway filtered through her terror of what Josh was attempting to do. Footsteps approached.
‘Josh! The police are here. They want you.’ That was one of the men who had kidnapped Jasmine.
Josh straightened up, dropping his hands. Jasmine pushed back, gasping for breath to fill her lungs.
‘What they doing here?’ Josh roared and stamped off towards the door.
The window was revealed clear and unimpeded before Jasmine. She didn’t look behind. She didn’t plan. She leapt up, took three steps forward and launched herself through the open frame, arms outstretched.
A glimpse of green then her hands hit the ground. She heard a click in her left wrist and then she was tumbling, somersaulting, rolling over the grass and then tarmac. She lay for a moment on her back looking up at the clouds in the sky. She put her left hand down to push herself up and cried. Pain pulsed up her arm. Her wrist was definitely broken.
Jasmine struggled to her feet. The river was in front of her, a lock to her left. Away to the right was where Andy’s body had been pulled from the water, and the route home. She set off, slowly, limping a little, her left knee felt sore as well as the side of her face and the wrist which she cradled in her other arm. Walkers along the riverside path looked at her, wonder and disapproval in their eyes. She realised that her wig, though still, miraculously, on her head, was lopsided. She guessed that she wasn’t looking at her most feminine or attractive.

It took considerably longer than on one of her runs to get back to the flat. She didn’t feel like running, in fact, walking had become more of an effort than she wanted. There was even a feeling of nausea. At the door she remembered she didn’t have her bag or her door key. Where had that gone? She tapped with her good hand.
The door was opened almost immediately and there was Angela, worry showing in her frown and set mouth.
‘Jasmine!’ she cried, ‘What happened?’
Jasmine staggered through the door. ‘Let me sit down and I’ll tell you.’
Angela took her arm to help her into the room, but Jasmine winced.
‘What’s the matter?’
‘My wrist’s broken.’ Jasmine sank into the sofa and sighed. ‘I had to dive through a window to get away.’
‘From Josh? It was his mates that took you from the pub?’
Jasmine nodded. ‘He did it. He got Andy drunk, raped him and then dumped him in the river.’
‘He told you!’
‘He was gloating. I think he was planning the same for me until the cops turned up.’
‘They did. Good. They didn’t take long then.’
‘You knew?’
‘Yes. Look let’s get you to A&E and get that wrist sorted and I’ll explain.’
‘I suppose I’d better change if we’re going to see a doctor,’ Jasmine said, reluctantly hauling herself to her feet.
‘I’ll give you a hand.’ Angela knelt to unfasten Jasmine’s sandals, then helped her stand and loosen her skirt. It slipped down over her hips while Jasmine used her good hand to remove the wig.
‘So how did the police know where to come?’ James asked as Angela pulled a pair of shorts up his legs.
‘When I came out of the loo and found you gone I wondered what you were up to but then I saw your bag on the floor and I knew something was wrong.’
‘Good deduction,’ James said as Angela removed his silicone breasts from his bra.
‘That’s when I started making a noise asking the barman and the other people what had happened.’
‘A few people must have seen me being escorted out.’
Angela unclipped his bra. ‘Yes, but they were a bit slow to speak up until I started saying if it was this Josh bloke it was connected to a death.’
‘Bold.’
‘Yes, well, the barman finally gave in. He knew Josh well but I think he realised that this was one affair he wanted no part of. He admitted that Josh’s mates had taken you out and he gave me his address. I rang the police and asked to speak to Constable Vickers.’
‘The detective I spoke to?’
‘Yes,’ Angela pulled a t-shirt over James’ head taking care not to jar his injured wrist. ‘You must have got him and his boss thinking after you spoke to him yesterday. He was interested to hear about Josh’s contacts with Andy. I gave him the address.’
‘You didn’t mention me?’
‘Not Jasmine. Come on let’s get your wrist fixed.’

……………………

Jasmine receives a shock

rainbow flagTuesday 17th May is IDAHOT (or IDAHoT) day, the International Day for Action against Homophobia and Transphobia. Public buildings around the world will be flying the rainbow flag of lesbian, gay, bisexual pride. As usual trans gets lumped in with the  LGB or to put it another way transpeople join with LGB people to declare their opposition to discrimination and hate. Since being trans is about personal identity and not sexual preferences it is a questionable whether the T should be in LGBT. However as a smaller minority than the LGB crowd, transpeople need all the support they can get. I am quite happy to support gays and lesbians in their campaign against hate crime and prejudice and I appreciate their acceptance and support for transpeople of all genders or none. Nevertheless, I have been asked whether I feel included in the rainbow flag.
220px-Transgender_Pride_flag.svgThere is a transgender flag, in fact, there are many different designs. Apparently the most commonly seen (shown here) was designed by Monica Helms in 1999 although I can’t recall having seen it fly anywhere. Actually I think it is a terrible design. The blue stands for boys, the pink for girls and the white for intersex (those born with parts of both sets of genitals). It is wrong for so many reasons. First, I would like us to get away from this labelling of pink and blue for girls and boys. Second, the division into two genders leaves out the non-binary or dual gender (whatever term you want to use) people who do not identify with just male or female. Last of all, the structure of the flag suggests that female is confined within the male, reinforcing male supremacy.
The rainbow flag itself has problems. It is not a true rainbow which shows infinite gradations of colour but is in fact a variation on the Newtonian seven colour spectrum (with the blue and indigo combined into royal blue) and suggests divisions between the different “colours”. Oh, and the bottom colour should be a much darker violet.
Why have flags anyway?  Flags were invented to identify which side you were on in a battle or to show possession of a patch of land. Do we really want that symbolism?
Despite that I will show my support in the campaign against hatecrime of all forms on Tuesday by attending  the flying of the flag.

So after that, here is the next episode of Aberration, a prequel to Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design, featuring Jasmine Frame, transsexual detective.

Aberration: Part 3
 
The following evening, James found he was behind the bar with Kevin and another young man, but not Andrea. On the Friday evening though, Andrea was there washing glasses, serving customers, clearing tables. James attempted to engage her in conversation but she wouldn’t stop to chat insisting that there was more work to do. She was the same on Saturday and Sunday evenings, but as they were clearing up in the early hours of Monday morning, Andrea brushed passed James and slipped a piece of paper into his hand.  As he left the pub, James read the note in the light of a streetlamp. It gave the location of a Starbucks in the centre of town and a time, 11 a.m. It ended with a greeting or a request, “See you there. A”.  James smiled, put the slip of paper in his pocket and sauntered home.

Next morning was dry but cooler than it had been.  Nevertheless, Jasmine thought it was summer dress weather. She spent a long time getting ready, striving for that natural, everyday look that took ages to achieve. At last she felt ready to hit the Reading town centre and put on her comfy sandals for the walk.  She found the coffee shop easily enough and entered, surveying the customers for Andy. He was sitting at a table. He saw her as she stepped inside and rose to greet her. They exchanged a nervous kiss on each other’s cheek, then Andy insisted on buying Jasmine a coffee, black unsweetened.
They sat together at the table, set apart, a little further from the others, probably because it was near the loo.  Jasmine guessed that Andy didn’t want his voice overheard.
‘Thanks, Andy,’ she began, ‘It’s nice to get out. Do you come here often?’
Andy nodded, then spoke almost in a whisper. ‘Now and again. Often enough so they know me behind the counter.’
‘Why, here?’
‘It’s the opposite side of the town from home and my family aren’t likely to come in. They’re not fancy coffee drinkers.’ He sipped from his cappuccino.
Jasmine examined the young man. He facial features were a little softer than most blokes but his short hair and button up shirt and jeans meant he didn’t draw attention to himself. He slouched forward, round shouldered, resting his elbows on the table – a typical male pose.
‘You look good,’ Jasmine said.
‘So do you. Really girly.’
Jasmine glowed. ‘Thanks.’ She brushed hair from her face, leaned forward and said quietly, ‘Actually, wearing this wig is bloody hot. I wish I didn’t have to.’
‘Couldn’t you grow your hair? It’s blonde like the wig.’
‘I’d love to but I need short hair for the police force.’
‘They don’t like long hair then?’
‘It’s a matter of fitting in. I don’t want to be taken for a long-haired cissy.’
‘Don’t you want to be female all the time?’ Andy sounded mystified.
‘Hmm,’ Jasmine wasn’t sure how to explain herself, largely because she didn’t know how she felt. ‘Look, I love being Jasmine. It feels natural despite the wig and the false boobs, but I don’t really mind being James.’ James was a cardboard cut-out she stood behind, was more like how she felt. ‘But there’s the career in the Police, which I really want to do, and there’s Angela.’
Andy smiled. ‘Ah, Angela. She’s lovely.’
‘She is. I adore her and want to marry her. She’s really great about Jasmine. We have lots of fun together, but I don’t think she wants to live with her one hundred per cent of the time, especially a Jasmine with real tits and no cock.’
‘So you’re happy to stay as you are?’
‘I think so.’  We’ll have to see, Jasmine thought, we’ve barely set out on our life together. Being a student couple didn’t count. ‘But you’re not,’ she added turning the conversation round to Andy.
His face fell. ‘I can’t get it out of my head. It’s banging away all the time. The feeling that my body’s all wrong.’
‘Well, do something about it,’ Jasmine said with a resolution that she realised she hadn’t applied to herself. ‘You’re an adult. See a doctor. It’ll take time but once you’re on the hormones the changes will happen quickly enough.’
Andy shook his head, ‘But my folks will go bananas. They’ll think I’m an aberration. Wrong in the head.’
Jasmine reached forward to take Andy’s hand in hers. ‘I know it’s difficult. I haven’t told my mother and father anything about Jasmine either.’
‘But you said your sister knows.’
‘Yes.’
‘Well, I haven’t got any brothers and sisters and you don’t know my parents. If I told them I wasn’t their daughter anymore, I’m not sure what would happen.’
Despite Jasmine’s questioning Andy wouldn’t offer any more explanation so she steered the conversation to less problematic areas such as the Athens Olympics. After an hour in the coffee shop they left and went their separate ways.

The days passed. Jasmine celebrated Kelly Holmes’ two gold medals and was inspired to do her own runs most days. She quickly found her fitness returning. The evening shifts behind the bar continued to be a chore but they did at least supplement Angela’s meagre salary as a trainee. At least they were starting to settle into something of a routine and making the most of the time off they had together at the weekends – the daytime anyway. She shared shifts with Andrea some nights but they didn’t chat to each other a lot. Instead, every few days Jasmine met up with Andy for a Starbucks coffee. The staff soon got to recognise them and Jasmine realised that they thought they were a normal girl and boy dating. She could not detect any recognition or reaction to them both being transgendered and she enjoyed the opportunity to be out. When Jasmine told Angela about her observations she laughed.
‘Do I have to worry about you having an affair with another bloke, Jas?’
Jasmine blushed. ‘No. We’re just good friends.’
‘That’s what they all say,’ Angela chuckled.
‘I know, but what I really like is being accepted as me. It’s not like when we were at university surrounded by other students, some of them doing far more weird things than dressing up as the opposite gender. Meeting up with Andy in town is like when we go out shopping or whatever. I’m surrounded by ordinary people who couldn’t care less what I am, or what Andy is.’
Angela nodded. ‘Good. That’s how life should be.’

On a Tuesday night in the pub there were four men at a table, each well into his thirties, having a good time. They were knocking back the pints and whisky chasers and getting louder. James noticed that they seemed to know Kevin well and kept on drawing him into their banter and jokes. James also saw how they treated Andrea. Kevin had told her to serve the group so she was constantly being called out from behind the bar. Andrea had not given into Kevin’s request so was still dressed in her jeans and sloppy t-shirt. This didn’t seem to put off the men.  Hands gripped her thighs and buttocks as if assessing her like a prize ewe. When she leaned down to pick up glasses from the table, one or other of the men would lean forward to gaze at her breasts. James admired how she managed to keep her cool and do no more than ease the hands off her anatomy.  At last the group got up and left the pub blowing kisses to Andrea and Kevin.
Next day, Jasmine met up with Andy at the café. She collected the coffees, it was her turn to buy them and set them down at the table they had come to think of as theirs. Andy stared at the cup.
‘Are you OK, Andy?’ Jasmine said as she sat down.
‘Hmm.’
‘You’re not thinking about last night are you?’
‘Last night?’
‘The way those friends of Kevin pestered you.’
‘Oh, them. No, well I suppose a bit. Girls get that all the time.’
‘Yes, but you don’t have to put up with it. Kevin should have stopped them.’
‘He probably thought I should have been wearing a short skirt to please them a bit more.’
‘If he said that it would be sexual discrimination,’ Jasmine said.
Andy sniffed. ‘Well, he didn’t, and if I threatened him with the law I’d probably lose my job and I can’t risk that.’
‘So what’s the problem.’
He shrugged. ‘A bit of this, a bit of that I suppose.’
The more Jasmine pestered, the less Andy would say but she had never seen him as depressed or withdrawn.  They parted after half an hour hardly having conversed at all.  Jasmine returned home looking forward to an evening off with Angela.

The next day, Thursday, was cooler and damp. Almost autumnal, James thought as he set out for his daily run. He now had a few regular routes which all included sections of the Kennet and Thames river paths. This time, having reached the Kennet, he turned left towards Blakes’ Lock and the town centre. He hadn’t gone far when he met a small cluster of onlookers and his way was blocked by a police barrier.  James stopped and like the others looked upstream.  About fifty yards away a number of uniformed people were milling around on the bank and on the water were two inflatable boats.
‘What’s going on?’ James said to his companions.
A man in his mid-fifties in scruffy jacket and trousers, a fag hanging out of his mouth, coughed. ‘They’ve pulled a body out of the water,’ he said.
‘A dead body?’ James asked, realising it was probably a silly question.
‘’Course, it’s bloody dead. Do you think anyone would go swimming in this?’
James had thought the water seemed fairly clean as he ran beside the rivers but he wouldn’t choose to immerse himself in it.
‘Anyone know who?’ he asked of the gathering not expecting a sensible answer.
‘Someone said it was a girl. She was definitely wearing a short skirt when they pulled her out,’ said a man in an office suit holding an umbrella over his head.
James decided there was no point to standing and gawping and he wasn’t going to be able to follow this route. He turned and started to run in the opposite direction.

At five p.m. he entered the bar. Just Kevin was there, checking the bottles of spirits.  James looked around.
‘Where’s Andrea?’ She was usually there earlier, putting in the hours.
Kevin looked up at him, a blank look on his face. ‘She won’t be in tonight.’
‘Why not? Is she ill?’
‘No, she’s dead. They fished her body out of the Kennet this morning.’

………………..

Jasmine Frame in Aberration

courtesy of the BBC

courtesy of the BBC

The power of the media. Following our “exposure” on the BBC World Service we were contacted my BBC Hereford & Worcester and visited by a very pleasant presenter. We chatted and then she recorded an interview and video (using her phone) of us talking about my revelation of being trans. The story was very much the same as the World Service interview as that seemed the only item of interest.  Anyway, it was duly broadcast on local radio on Monday morning, during the 6 to 9 a.m. magazine-style programme. That meant they kept on repeating tiny excerpts but the transgender issue took up quite a large segment of the programme with contributions from a Rev who runs a LGBT friendly church and Joan King from Gender Trust. There is also a Facebook video. I hope it showed others that secrets can be revealed without the sky falling in and that couples can reach a loving accommodation with the trans life. I presume I am even more out now than before as a few people have commented on hearing the broadcast and seeing the video.

Despite there being little advertising in either of the media features there has been a noticeable increase in views of this blog and associated pages, so I’ll say “Hi” to new visitors and urge you all to come back from time to time, especially to catch these weekly rambles and story episodes.

Things have been busy for the last week or so and writing has been put on the “pending” pile.  However I have made a start on  the new Jasmine Frame prequel which I have called Aberration. You may wonder where my titles come from.  When I started writing Jasmine Frame stories I decided to make each title a play on words relating  to paintings, photographs, drawings i.e. connected to “Frame”. Latterly I have used photographic terms like focus, resolution, and now aberration. While this principle applied to the first published Jasmine stories, Painted Ladies and Bodies By Design I have decided that the prequel novellas probably need more explanatory titles when they appear as e-books, hence Discovering Jasmine and Murder In Doubt. All these titles are available as e-books and the two novels can be purchased as paperbacks in bookshops or direct from me.

You’ll have to wait a week or two to discover the pun in Aberration although I think it is probably pretty obvious. So, here we go with the first episode.

Jasmine Frame prequels – Aberration: Part 1

‘Really Andrea! Couldn’t you do something with yourself?’
Kevin’s voice made James pause in taking the glasses from the dishwasher rack. What was the pub manager on about now, he wondered?
‘What do you mean, do something?’
That was Andrea, James’ fellow bartender. Her voice like Kevin’s came from the cluttered corridor between the two bars.
‘Smarten yourself. Look attractive,’ Kevin said.  James resumed stacking the glasses on the shelves, doing it as quietly as possible while he listened to the conversation.
‘Like how?’ Andrea’s voice suggested she might explode pretty soon, but Kevin seemed oblivious.
‘Like, wearing a skirt. Or a dress. Give the punters something pretty to look at.’
The eruption James expected didn’t come.
‘Why don’t you ask Jim to wear a skirt or a dress? I’m sure they’d look as good on him as me.’
James felt himself blushing. Andrea couldn’t possibly know that he’d love to be wearing a dress or skirt right now, although not perhaps in this particular pub.
‘I said pretty not pervy.’ Kevin sounded exasperated. ‘The customers don’t want to see a tranny behind the bar. Your job is to get them to buy drinks and you’ll do that better if you played the sexy bargirl.’
Andrea’s reply was calm and soft not the outraged roar James feared. ‘I am a woman and what you’re suggesting amounts to sexual discrimination.’
‘Yes, well, it was only a suggestion,’ Kevin backpedalled.
‘I’ll do my job in the same way that Jim and the other guys do it. I’ll pull pints for the customers and take their money but I won’t parade myself in front of them like a peep show tart.’
‘No, alright, Andrea. I get the message. Just make sure you do your job.’ Footsteps receded. Andrea emerged into the bar that James occupied.
‘Did you hear that, Jim?’ Andrea said.  Like James she was in her early twenties and matched him for height.  Comparing their legs and torso she probably outweighed him and she had a sizeable pair of breasts which she kept covered in a loose, black t-shirt. She was wearing her ubiquitous jeans and trainers. Her hair was cut short in a boyish style and James doubted that she had ever worn make-up. She was definitely a tomboy and possibly lesbian. Kevin was onto a loser if he expected to get her into a girly outfit.
‘Yeah. He was out of order, there. You could certainly have got him on an equality rap or even sexual harassment.’
‘Thank you, Mr Lawyer, but I think I’d rather just keep my job.’
‘You’ll put up with him having a go at you for not dressing as he’d like?’ James wondered how much antagonism the girl could take.’
‘Well, it’s the only job I’ve got. Unlike you who will be marching off into a well-paid career in a couple of months.’
James had told Andrea of his plans to join the police force in November shortly after starting the job in the pub a couple of weeks ago at the end of August.
‘Don’t go telling Kevin that. He thinks I’m staying for a while. I wouldn’t have got the job otherwise. Look, he’s probably worried about sales. This place doesn’t seem to get that busy.’
‘Well if he wants to drum up trade by having someone wear fancy dress he can do it himself.’  Andrea stomped off to the other bar.        It was that time in the evening when the commuters had left and the night-birds had yet to turn out. There were just one or two customers focussed on their drinks while James and Andrea prepared for busier times.  Soon there wasn’t time for conversation and the noise level in the bar made exchanging even a few words difficult.

It was approaching one a.m. when James clambered, exhausted, up the stairs to their studio flat. He tried to be quiet opening the door but he knew that the slightest noise would disturb Angela, asleep on the double bed in the corner of the small room. He pushed the door closed and pulled off his shoes. He padded across the thin, cord carpet to check on her. She was turned away from him, her long brown hair spread over the pillow. He stood for a few seconds just looking at her illuminated by light from the street lamp which filtered through the unlined curtains.
‘Come to bed,’ Angela mumbled without turning.
‘Yes. I won’t be a moment,’ James whispered unnecessarily.  He pulled off his clothes, went to the tiny shower room to pee and wash and then to the equally cramped kitchen to get a glass of water. At last he was ready to slip under the sheet beside Angela. He placed a hand on her bare shoulder.
‘I’m tired,’ Angela said.
‘Me too.’
‘Sleep well.’
‘And you.’

James stirred when Angela clambered over him. He groaned and curled up tighter wanting sleep to reclaim him. He heard Angela moving around, showering, having some breakfast, getting dressed. She tried to be quiet as he had done in the night, but floorboards creaked, kettle whistled, mug and plates clacked on the miniature table, the wardrobe door squeaked.
James was aware of Angela standing over him.
‘Is this going to work, James?’
‘What?’ He moaned.
‘We never see each other. I’m at the office all day and by the time I get home you’ve gone off to your bar and don’t get home till I’m asleep.’
James forced his eyes to open. He had a blurry view of Angela standing beside him in her accountant’s suit.
‘It’s only till November, Ange. Then I’ll be a trainee police officer.’
‘But it’ll be the same when you’re done training. You’ll be working shifts. We’ll still be crossing in the doorway.’
He pushed himself up into a slumped position. ‘We’ll work it out, Ange. You’ll see. When you’re a high-earning corporate accountant and I’m a Detective Inspector we’ll be able to make time.’
Angela laughed. ‘That’s be years if not decades. I want time with you now. Do you realise, we haven’t been in this bed awake together since we moved in.’
James knew she was telling the truth of their situation. They’d taken this grotty Reading flat just a day before they started their respective jobs, Angela’s permanent and his temporary, but neither well-paid. Life as a working couple was proving to be less carefree than the student experience.
‘Look tomorrow’s Wednesday; my day off. We could do something in the evening when you get home.’
‘I don’t know James. I’ve got studying to do.’
‘Your exams are months away yet.’
‘I know but I need to get up to speed with what I do in the office.’
‘You can afford one evening off. To be with me.’
Angela smiled. ‘To be with Jasmine I suppose.’
‘Well, yes, okay, that would be great.’ It was exactly what he wanted although he hadn’t dared to make the suggestion. They were in a new town and he hadn’t yet ventured out as Jasmine Frame, but he wanted to, very much.  ‘I’ll have a look around to see what’s happening. We haven’t danced since we were on holiday.’  The memory of dancing, two girls together, surrounded by other people their age on that Greek island seemed rather distant now. Their final fling as students. Now real life was pressing down on them.
‘Alright. I’ll see. I’d better be off.’ Angela leaned down and kissed his cheek. He felt the sticky impression of her lips.

Jasmine spent the day in the stuffy flat trying to think of something more useful to do than watching the Olympic games from Athens on their small portable. She did use her laptop to investigate evening entertainments in Reading and while the dial-up connection wasn’t perfect she made one welcome discovery.
Before Angela returned she wrote out a note. ‘LGBT disco night, monthly, Wed. Athena nightclub.’ Then she went to change into her bar uniform which was precisely the same as that worn by Andrea.
James was pleased to find he was on duty with Andrea again at the start of the evening but she was sullen and quiet. She served the customers but didn’t make small-talk.
‘Anything bothering you,’ James asked hoping to draw her out.
‘Nah,’ she said, ‘Just looking forward to a night away from this dump.’
‘Oh, yes. Me too. Got anything planned.’
Andrea shrugged. ‘Don’t know yet. Wait and see I suppose.’ An impatient drinker barked an order, ending their quasi-conversation and so the night went on.
Angel was asleep again when James returned but turned over as he joined her.
‘Okay,’ she murmured.
‘Okay, what?’ James said.
‘We’ll go to that place you found, tomorrow, tonight, whenever.’
‘Oh, that. Great. Night love,’ He kissed her cheek but she was already snoring softly. Before he too dozed off he considered what outfit he should wear for Jasmine’s first venture into Reading’s nightlife.
…………………

Jasmine across the world

copyright BBC.

copyright BBC.

Well, not Jasmine so much as me and Lou.  We were on the BBC World Service last Saturday and featured on the BBC magazine website where apparently for a time (a few minutes, hours?) it was trending in the top ten articles. You can read it here.  The programme was part of the World Services “Identity” series looking  at how personal secrets are kept and shared.  Really it was a rehash of the programme we did two and half years ago and didn’t examine transgenderism or gender identity in any greater depth. Nor, more’s the pity, did it promote the Jasmine Frame series to any worthwhile extent with no links on the website. For this we gave up a couple of hours of our time, exposed ourselves to the media (the presenter and producer were quite sweet actually) and no money exchanged hands.

What is interesting, perhaps, is the result.  I didn’t expect much of a slightly boring, short interview with little publicity, although a friend did point out that there was a potential audience of a billion or so. What did happen was a brief small spike in views of this blog and a tiny, short-lived spike in e-book sales.  What was lovely were the comments here, on Facebook and in person from friends who heard or saw the feature. Thanks for the encouragement, folks. One irritating response was from a publisher, who I had not had previous contact with, asking me to review a  novel with a transgender character that they were putting out.  Cheek! Not even an offer of payment. I wondered if it was worth doing for the publicity but thought giving someone else a sale wasn’t worth my trouble.

Murder in doubt coverWhat the media exposure did do was spur me to put out Murder In Doubt on sale a few days earlier than I had planned (it was intended to coincide with this post). It is, chronologically, the second prequel novella featuring James/Jasmine Frame and follows after Discovering Jasmine.  An unedited version appeared here a long time ago.  James/Jasmine is starting his/her university career and, nervously, relishing the opportunities to be Jasmine. She meets Angela for the first time  and another trans-woman called Silla.  Soon she is investigating a possible murder and making surprising discoveries.   Murder In Doubt is available on Kindle, and for just one day you can get Discovering Jasmine free.

 

Look out for. . .

There is no new Jasmine Frame episode this week but a new story, called Aberration, will start next week.  Chronologically it follows Murder In Doubt.  James/Jasmine and Angela have graduated and are entering the world of careers and renting somewhere to live. Jasmine is getting used to living outside the cloistered community of university and is waiting to join the police force. It’s 2004 and the Gender Recognition Act has just been passed by parliament but is not yet law. Being Jasmine, she soon finds herself investigating a death which the police have misinterpreted.  The first episode will appear on Sat 30th April – be here!

Jasmine seeks a lead

I don’t say this very often but thank you.  Thank you for reading this weekly ramble and serialised scribbling.  A special thanks to the person, I think it is just one, who accessed a lot of the archived pages this week.  I hope that gave you a good insight into Jasmine Frame.  You can of course purchase the latest novel, Bodies By Design by going to the Jasmine Frame Publications page.

IMGP4329(2)This weekend I’m putting on my “published by Elsewhen Press” badge and my “Seventh Child” t-shirt (if I can find it) and setting off for Nottingham for this year’s NovaCon – one of the biggest SF&F conventions in the calendar. I don’t think I’ll have any exclusive opportunities to promote Evil Above the Stars (vol. 3 Unity of Seven isn’t due out till the new year) but I hope to meet people, introduce myself and catch up with the gang from Elsewhen. Elsewhen are publishing an anthology of short SF stories with contributions from most, if not all, their authors. I’ve got a story in it – a landmark for me in that it is actually my first SF story in a professional publication. More of that when it appears.

This week I have been delighted to make good progress with the third Jasmine Frame novel, The Brides’ Club Murder. What to do with it when it’s finished is one question and another one is what do I write next – more of that next week.  Here though is the next episode of the Jasmine Frame prequel, Flashlight. Jasmine is now a temporary addition  to DCI Sloane’s investigative team and she, or rather he, is learning more about Sloane and his new partners.

Flashlight: Part 6

James followed DC Sparrow down the stairs and into the secure car park. It gave him a chance to look at the young police officer. Although wearing black trousers and sensible flat shoes, she hadn’t adopted the male detective uniform of dull suit, shirt and tie. She wore a grey blouson leather jacket over a pale blue scoop-necked t-shirt and wore her dark hair long and loose. James felt poorly dressed in comparison. He’d removed his police jacket with all its kit when he’d got back to the station with Gavin. Now he just had the showerproof jacket that he wore to and from work over his shirt and his uniform trousers.
Sparrow stopped at unmarked Ford Focus. ‘Get in Jim,’ she said.
James slid into the passenger seat beside her and in moments they were driving through the security gates and out into the town. Milla drove swiftly but safely through the busy traffic until they reached a scruffy part of town – a 50s former council estate now largely housing association run social housing and private lets. They drew up at a three story apartment block. Some of the windows were boarded up but James could see that there were occupants.
‘This is where the gay lad was found?’ James asked.
Milla turned off the engine. ‘Yes, one of the ground floor flats. A right dump. Murray’s flatmate, may be there or he might be out servicing a client or hunting for drugs himself. We’ll give him a try shall we?’
They got out of the car and walked through the rubbish and bits of bicycles and push-chairs to the door of the block. The lock was broken so Milla pushed the door open and stepped inside.  She tapped on the door on the right. There was a moan from inside which James translated as a ‘who’s there?’
‘Lawrence Offiah? It’s the police. DC Sparrow. We met last week when your friend died. We’d like to talk to you.’
There was further moaning but James also heard movement. It was a few moments more before the door opened a crack. Filling the gap was young dark-skinned man, shorter than James, thin, naked but for a pair of grey boxer shorts with a significant bulge. His shaven head was a glistening black
‘Can we come in, Lawrence,’ Sparrow said in a gentle voice, ‘It’ll be easier to talk inside. This is Constable Frame. He’d like to ask some questions.’
The boy shrugged and wandered away from the door leaving it ajar. Sparrow pushed it open and stepped into the room. James wasn’t surprised by the state of the bedsit but he wondered how people could live in such a fashion. A thin, much-stained carpet covered the floor. A grubby duvet was heaped on the three-quarter sized bed. A few bits of crockery and empty plastic cartons filled the sink. An old Dralon-covered sofa faced an almost new 60-inch flat screen TV with a game console on the floor in front of it.
Offiah slumped onto the sofa and scratched his crotch. ‘What do you want now? I told you everything when Guy died.’ His London gangsta drawl cracked a little when he said the name of his dead partner and James saw real sorrow on his face.
Milla soothed him. ‘Yes, Lawrence. You helped us a lot last week and I know it was difficult for you. James here, thinks you can help us find out why Guy died.’
‘He got a bad batch. It happens.’ Offiah shrugged.
‘But where did he get it?’ Milla asked.
‘I said I didn’t know,’ he insisted, ‘it wasn’t from any of the usual pushers because he didn’t have any money.’
James butted in. ‘How do you know he hadn’t just seen a client and been paid?’
Lawrence sneered at him. ‘Because he was sick. No punter would fuck him. Not even the most desperate. I was looking after him but I had to go out and earn some dough.’
‘You were out all night,’ Milla said.
Lawrence slumped and tears appeared in his eyes. ‘Yeah. I got back in the morning and found him. You know all that.’
‘How was Guy, when you left him?’ James asked.
‘He said he was feeling better,’ Offiah said, ‘I told him to have a bit more rest. Make sure he was well before, you know.’
‘But he went out?’ James said.
Offiah shrugged. ‘Must have gone somewhere to get a packet. They don’t do home deliveries.’
‘If he didn’t have enough cash to go to your usual suppliers where would he gave gone?’ Milla asked.
‘I don’t know,’ Lawrence said.
‘Do you know any new sources?  A new venue perhaps?’ James knew he was leading the boy on.
Lawrence looked thoughtful. ‘Yeah, perhaps.’
‘Such as the new club at the Marquis?’ James said.
‘Could be,’ Lawrence shrugged, ‘We took a look in there a couple of weeks ago when it opened. They made a fuss about it being gay-friendly. It was okay. We might have gone again if Guy hadn’t got sick.’
‘You didn’t go back to pick up anyone?’ James asked.
‘Didn’t need to. I’ve got me regulars.’
‘Were you offered drugs at the Marquis?’ Milla asked.
‘Didn’t ask. We just spent a while having a drink, a dance and a kiss and a cuddle. They’ve got some nice cosy corners.’ He smirked at Milla. She sent an enquiring glance at James. He nodded. He could see the two boys getting off in one of the Marquis’ private rooms to the delight of voyeurs.
‘Did Guy leave you at any time while you were there?’ James enquired.
Lawrence turned to James and glowered at him. ‘He might have gone for a pee.’
‘And he didn’t mention anyone dealing from the loos.’
Offiah shook his head. ‘No. Look have you finished. I’ve got to go and meet someone.’
‘You’re sure you don’t want to tell us more about the Marquis?’ Milla said, in a tone rather firmer than she had used previously.’
‘I told you I don’t know anything about that place. Now I’ve got to get ready so I’d like you to leave.’ The young man started to pull his boxers down over his hips.
Milla began to retreat to the door. ‘Okay, Lawrence, but we may be back. This isn’t just about Guy anymore.’
James followed her out of the door and pulled it closed behind getting a glimpse of a dark pair of buttocks as it clicked shut.
‘He’s lying,’ Milla said as they walked back to the car.
‘Yes,’ James agreed, ‘He knew more about what goes on at the Marquis than he admitted.’
‘You were offered drugs in the loo, by Natalie, were you, Jim?’
‘Yes, and the guy I bought them off last night.’
‘A trans-man, you said.’
‘I think so.’
‘You have an eye for transgender, Jim?’
‘Sort of.’
They got into the car. Milla froze with her hand on the ignition key.
‘So there is definitely a link with the Marquis even if we haven’t yet got proof that Guy Murray went there after Offiah left him for the night. Let’s have a go at Butler’s cleaning lady, Mary O’Reilly. With any luck she might have finished for the day.
James glanced at his watch. It was gone five p.m. He only had a couple of hours left on his shift.
‘What time do you finish, Milla?’ He asked as they drove off.
The DC glanced at him. ‘When we’re done for the day, Jim. You don’t get regular hours when you work for DCI Sloane. Is that a problem?’
James shook his head. ’No, no, not at all.’ He was thinking of Angela being at home and wondering where he was. As a uniformed officer he often didn’t get off when his shift was due to end but he usually managed to send Angela a text to let her know. He didn’t want to do that now while he was accompanying Milla.
‘Have you worked with Sloane for long?’ he asked as they joined the Reading rush hour queues.
‘Over a year,’ Milla answered, ‘but not for much longer.’
‘Oh?’ James wasn’t sure whether to enquire further.
Milla drummed the steering wheel in impatience. ‘I’ve got a transfer to the West Midlands force,’ she explained. ‘My partner got moved to Birmingham a while back. It took a bit of time but they finally found a place for me. Sloane was very helpful actually.’
‘Really,’ James expressed his surprise, ‘I’d heard he was, um, difficult to work for.’
Milla chuckled. ‘Oh he is. He’s bad tempered, impatient and old-fashioned but he looks after his team.’
‘Is your partner in the force too?’
‘No, she’s an IT geek. Earns far more than me.’
‘She?’ James blurted out then was embarrassed that he’d said it.
Milla looked at him with a frown. ‘Yes, Jim. I’m a lesbian. Is that a problem for you?’
James shook his head vigorously. ‘No, no, of course not. I’m sorry I was surprised, I mean, I shouldn’t have reacted like that. It’s not important.’
‘Oh, yes, it is Jim. I’ve had to face the insults and the “jokes”. You’re a bloke so I expect you and your mates have fantasised about two girls having it off.’
James denied it as Milla went on.
‘I tried keeping it quiet but you know what the force is like. It’s difficult to keep a secret for long, particularly if it concerns who you’re living with. Actually I think it’s getting better. People, blokes included, are accepting different lifestyles more. Even gay officers are being open now.’
James remained silent. Are they ready for a transgender colleague though, he wondered?
As they edged forward, Milla continued. ‘I think Sloane was uncomfortable. He’s always avoided any mention of my sexuality and never asked about Tania. So long as I was doing a good job he was pleasant enough. But perhaps the reason why he helped me get my transfer was so he wouldn’t have a lezzer on his team.’
‘Do you really think he’s prejudiced?’ James felt a sickening worry in case his own secret was revealed.
‘Prejudiced? No, I don’t think so. He goes along with all the diversity stuff, but he’s old-school. I think he’s just uncomfortable with openness about sex and sexual oddities – despite coming across all sorts of depravity in his job. Ah, at last. Let’s get moving.’ She revved the engine and they moved forward with the traffic.
………………………………..